A lawsuit filed earlier this month claims Morristown Mayor Timothy Dougherty repeatedly used his seat and political power to retaliate against bars owned by James Cavanaugh, a former Essex County freeholder, after the latter refused to allow Dougherty to invest in the same.
The suit, filed on April 1, claims Dougherty sought to invest in Iron Bar, one of the taverns operated by Cavanuagh, in his son’s name ahead of its opening in 2010, the same year the mayor was sworn into office.
It accuses Dougherty and others of racketeering and violating a number of rights granted to Cavanaugh under the U.S. constitution, among other things.
Dougherty doesn’t seem worried about the complaint.
“We’ll go through the process,” Dougherty said. “This is from a litigious bar owner. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a work of fiction.”
Cavanaugh’s suit says Dougherty began retaliating against him after the former refused the mayor’s investment offer by limiting the operating hours of Iron Bar and Revolution Social Brew House, another bar owned by the plaintiff.
The town limited the latter bar’s operating hours to 11 PM Sunday through Thursday and 11:30 PM on Fridays and Saturdays.
The decision has more than once been overturned by the New Jersey Division of Alcohol Beverage Control and the Office of Administrative Law, which found other bars in Morristown had their last calls at 2 AM
Under local law, bars in Morristown are generally free to serve alcohol until 2 AM.
Morristown Councilman Stefan Armington, who was council president at the time, in a 2017 hearing on the matter held by the Office of Administrative Law, said he did not know how the town came up with the restrictions.
In his suit, Cavanaugh says Armington holds a grudge against him over an unrelated matter.
Municipal Clerk Kevin Harris told the panel no other bars in Morristown were subject to the restrictions, and Morristown Police Chief Peter Demitz said he was not aware of any extenuating circumstances that would require limiting the operating hours of Cavanaugh’s bars.
The hearings led to the Office of Administrative Law overturning the restrictions, though Morristown imposed similar restriction
The suit also claims Dougherty ordered Morristown police officers to create Roadblocks around Cavanaugh’s bars during peak hours in an effort to drive down business there, both by creating the appearance of an incident at the two bars and by preventing ride hailing services like Uber and Lyft from accessing the bars directly.
It further alleges the roadblocks are illegal because the bars are located on a state highway and state law requires such roadblocks be approved by the state highway commissioner and, under a separate statute, that notice be given for such closures.
The suit says Morristown police, acting under Dougherty’s direction, did not meet those statutory requirements.
This isn’t the first time Cavanaugh and the town’s government have been at odds.
The bar owner and a number of other area business owners have an ongoing lawsuit against the Morristown Parking Authority over a separate matter.
That suit has also drawn the ire of Dougherty and his fellows in Morristown’s government.
“You fucked with the wrong people,” Dougherty allegedly said in reference to the second suit.
David Wildstein contributed to this report.Iron Bar Morristown