Officials will meet this week to discuss "ongoing issues and safety concerns" at a Cedar Grove catering hall after a crowded party prompted police to close two lanes of Pompton Avenue and issue more than 30 parking tickets to guests at a wine tasting Tuesday night.
Police and Fire officials responded to The Grove banquet hall on Pompton Avenue after receiving complaints that patrons were parking their cars on side streets, creating a safety concern for pedestrians and motorists.
Several fire officials, including Fire Chief John Bannon, were dispatched to The Grove around 6 p.m. on Sept. 20 to determine whether the crowd exceeded the facility's 700-seat limit, however, Bannon said by their count, the crowd did not exceed its maximum capacity.
Despite this, many guests had parked their cars on nearby side streets, resulting in women in evening gowns and men in three-piece suits sprinting across the highway as the daylight faded. Citing safety concerns for motorists and pedestrians, police closed off one lane of Pompton Avenue in either direction, and directed Grove patrons safely across the highway.
Police Chief Richard Vanderstreet said his department issued more than 30 summonses in the area of The Grove, for violations including parking too far from the curb, or too close to fire hydrants and stop signs.
The parking issue had been a regular fixture at Township Council meetings going into summer, but had tapered off in recent months. Deputy Mayor Joseph Chiusolo, who was an outspoken critic of the way the facility has handled its parking situation during that time, has renewed his call for action.
"It's not acceptable to have pedestrians in droves crossing Pompton Avenue. A month from now, it's going to be dark out at this time of night, and we're going to have injuries or possibly people getting killed crossing Pompton Avenue to frequent this catering facility. It's totally unacceptable."
Chiusolo said that officials would convene this week to discuss "ongoing issues and safety concerns at The Grove." It was not immediately known which officials would be in attendance.
The Grove, which opened its doors in March at the former site of the Friar Tuck Inn, has been a frequent target of residents of nearby streets including Young Avenue, Little Falls Road and Brunswick Road, who have frequently complained to the Township Council that overflow parking on their streets presents a quality of life concern.
In April, the governing body responded by passing an ordinance that would more tightly govern rules for future catering facilities in the township.
Dhimetrio Vasilopoulos, owner of The Grove, addressed residents' concerns at an April 18 council meeting. At the meeting, Vasilopoulos took a conciliatory tone, assuring the facility's neighbors that the parking situation would be resolved upon completion of The Grove's attached parking garage, which was under construction at the time.
In July, The Grove was once again on the Township Council's agenda, this time after neighbors complained that loud, outdoor weddings were being held early in the morning on weekends. The Council responded by directing code enforcement officials to notify The Grove that their certificate of occupancy was in jeopardy if such functions did not stop.
Outside The Grove on Tuesday night, Vasilopoulos said he understands why neighbors are upset, but said it is beyond his control.
"I know people are upset about the parking, but I can't control who parks in the streets."