West Orange bagel shop owner vows to appeal after losing dispute over window coverings

Toni Yates Image
Tuesday, November 7, 2023
Bagel shop owner loses dispute with town over window coverings
Toni Yates has more on the case verdict.

WEST ORANGE, New Jersey (WABC) -- A community battle is underway in the New Jersey town of West Orange after a bagel shop was found guilty of covering up its windows.

Turns out, it's illegal for stores in West Orange to keep windows closed so the public can't see what's going on, but the store has covered the windows since the pandemic when they moved the eatery part outside.

"I was expecting this outcome from the start," said Jarrett Seltzer, owner of Bagels By Jarrett.

But he says this is not the end of his fight.

"We go right to the appeals process. I don't think we got a fair trial here," he said.

West Orange zoning officials have been on Seltzer for several months over his popular take out or delivery-only business.

Jarrett Seltzer believes his bagel business is being wrongfully fined after West Orange zoning officials took issue with his windows being covered up. Toni Yates has the story.

From the outside, you can't see inside. The city cites part of its zoning code, titled 'Appearance of Exterior of Premises and Structures,' to call his windows non-compliant.

Seltzer's attorney disagrees.

"I don't think the ordinance is super clear, but it's clear enough to understand that it deals with covering the windows from the exterior, not the interior," Christopher Benevento said.

Seltzer's coverings are on the inside.

"So it just doesn't apply to this situation," Benevento said.

Seltzer says the shades help cut down on his electric bill and also reminds customers that its not an eat-in restaurant.

"They're misusing an ordinance purposely to come after me because I stood up to them and that's why we're here. Everyone knows it," Seltzer said.

Zoning was fining him $1,500 a day, which could have amounted to tens of thousands of dollars, but the judge whittled the fines down to $50 a day, about $4,200 including fees, which won't be collected as long as the case is appealed.

Seltzer says other mayors have reached out to him to relocate to their towns, but he's declined.

"I've invested a lot of money into West Orange, both in my business, and my home, and my community," he said. "I'm not going to let them push me out with stupid things along these lines."

West Orange Mayor Susan McCartney said in a statement that the city respects the court hearing and considering the testimony.

"The township's priority has always been to work with all local businesses to help ensure their success," the statement said.

Seltzer has 20 days to appeal.


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