Porta is a popular restaurant and bar on Kingsley Street in Asbury Park.
By ED SALVAS
The Asbury Park City Council approved a liquor license renewal for Porta, the popular Kingsley Street restaurant and bar, but not before outlining certain conditions bar owners must follow.
The contentious 30-minute discussion at the council’s June 28 meeting centered on Porta’s handling of security and crowd control which co-owner Jim Watt stressed repeatedly that the management is working to correct. Owners have agreed to all the conditions set forth in the resolution for renewal. Watt was accompanied by attorney Michael Halfacre, a former director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission who speaking for himself, called the restrictions “onerous.”
Watt said the Asbury Park Police are satisfied with the Porta security team.
“We never said no to any conditions, never pushed back on employing police. We spent $14,000 on a new security system. We have Asbury Park police working at Porta every weekend,” Watt said.
He also said they agreed to a condition that Porta indemnify the city from any legal actions involving Porta.
Watt argued that Porta is in an area with a number of places serving alcohol and that a significant number of the calls to Porta are for people that have been drinking elsewhere who are not let in. They become belligerent and are arrested.
“They never set foot in Porta,” he said adding that Porta has also reduced the size of is drinks.
Deputy Mayor Amy Quinn said the police are having trouble puling city police for duty at Porta and that they’ve had to call in police from Bradley Beach.
“That’s never been told to me, never communicated to me,” Watt replied.
Halfacre cited statistics that between January 2022 and May 31, 2023, Porta spent $141,000 to hire Asbury Park Police and $14,000 for officers from Bradley Beach.
Councilwoman Eileen Chapman said the restrictions for the license renewal are necessary because of the lawsuits and conditions around Porta affecting the quality of life. Councilwoman Angela Ahbez-Anderson said she lives in the neighborhood and she and her neighbors can no longer endure the litter left by people leaving Porta. .
Watt said Porta security people have done sweeps around the area and he’s spent $100,000 on training for a safe environment. He said Porta is an important hub in terms of entertainment and hospitality for Asbury Park, including people with children and grandparents and young people who come to dance.
The vote to approve the license was 4-1, Ahbez Anderson voting no. Eileen Chapman voted yes saying there is need for better communications and Councilwoman Yvonne Clayton said she planned to vote no but changed her mind and voted yes. Deputy Mayor Quinn “begrudgingly” voted yes and said she wants to fix the communications problem and stop the emails and lawsuits. Mayor John Moor said there also needs to be better communications between the police and the council as he voted in favor of the renewal.