Newark mayor vetoes restaurant security ordinance

July 20, 2011 9:25:52 AM PDT
In a surprising move, Newark Mayor Cory Booker vetoed a public ordinance calling for armed guards at late-night restaurants.

The plan had been criticized by businesses owners who didn't want to pay for the extra security.

Royal Chicken is one of many places that stays open 24 hours. The restaurant has a bullet-proof window, but that is designed for workers and offers little protection to customers. The legislation was to try and address that issue, but the owners were not on board.

"There's no correlation between crime and take-out restaurants," Texas Fried Chicken and Pizza owner Jamil Nahiam said. "People come in and order and leave. There's no hang outs, no sit-ins."

It seems Booker agrees. The mayor vetoed the controversial City Council measure that would have required some late-night eateries serving 15 people or fewer to hire armed security guards.

"How much are those establishments responsible for crime in general and violent crime in general?" Booker said. "Less than 2 percent of all of our incidents of violent crime."

Cory Booker listened to complaints from business owners, who said armed guards would cost too much.

"There's, to me, more cost effective ways to leverage the kind of safety that they're looking for," he said.

Nahiam owns two small take-out spots, including the late-night chicken and pizza place that was the scene of the May tragedy that inspired the City Council bill. Off-duty Newark police officer William Johnson was waiting for his food when he was killed in a drive-by shooting.

Soon after, Councilman Ras Baraka proposed that smaller restaurants be forced to have armed guards on duty past 9 p.m.. He said those places are magnets for crime.

But the mayor decided the measure was simply too broad and would leave the city vulnerable to lawsuits from business owners. Now, he wants council members to work with police to come up with a new plan.

"The council didn't hold one meeting with law enforcement professionals," Booker said. "They didn't ask for any input."

There is no word on whether the council members plan to try and override the mayor's veto. Baraka did not respond to requests for comment, while West Ward Councilman Ronald Rice, Jr., said he believes the City Council will attempt it. But he admitted it needs some revision to ease the burden on small business owners.

The measure was proposed after a spike in crime and cutbacks to the city's police force.