By PETE WALTON
Bradley Beach will attempt to ease its downtown parking crunch in time for the summer season.
Mayor Larry Fox met online earlier this week with a group of borough business owners, mainly restaurateurs, to discuss their concerns.
Fox said that some suggestions from a state-funded panel to add reverse angle parking on Second and Third Avenues could be implemented.
He also floated other ideas which are under consideration in the short term.
“Could we run a trolley from Bradley Boulevard to the middle and north side of town during the summer and let people park along Sylvan Lake?” he asked. “Can we temporarily use the 7-Eleven lot (at Fifth and Main) that’s not being utilized right now?”
The mayor said that in the mid to long term, the borough would like to move public works operations from Evergreen Avenue to its property at the north end of town and create a parking lot at the Evergreen location.
Fox also cited a proposal approved by the state to narrow county-owned Memorial Drive on the borough’s western border to two lanes and lower the speed limit to 25 miles per hour.
“We’re going to meet with [Monmouth County Commission Director Thomas A. Arnone] and make a pitch to have the east side of Memorial Drive [designated for] parking from 11th down to Evergreen, which would free up between 75 and 100 spaces.”
Much of the hour-long session was devoted to a discussion of liquor license reform with state Sen. Vin Gopal (D-11th), who represents a nearby legislative district.
“We know that we have a very archaic system of licenses, especially when we look at other states,” Gopal said. “We see how backwards we are.”
He said the challenge in creating new licenses to assist struggling businesses is being fair to existing licensees.
“We’re trying to figure out how to compensate some of those license holders who have paid a lot of money,” the state senator said. “Any of these folks who paid $700,000, $800,000, a million per license. I think there’s a way to do that through tax credits and other ways. We’re trying to figure out how to how to do this, how to be creative about it.”
According to Gopal, an annual fee of $2,000 to $5,000 is being discussed for new beer and wine permits. He said at those rates, it would “take us forever” to pay back those who invested in liquor licenses at market rates.
“So we’re trying to figure out other ways,” he said.
“It’s got to be something in perpetuity,” restaurant operator Anthony Pagano of Uva responded. “For the amount of money that we spent on these licenses, the tax credit just doesn’t seem to be enough.”
“To go after us at this point is very difficult to swallow,” Pagano said.
Gopal said he would speak to Pagano and other license holders to get their input as the legislation is being developed.
The senate’s Law and Public Safety Committee plans to hold a hearing on some of the liquor reform proposals later this month.
Mayor Fox said the borough is hoping to hire a part-time planning and grants manager to assist businesses in applying for help from government and other agencies.
Mahonry Hidalgo of the Luna Verde restaurant on Main Street asked the mayor to help him and other business owners deliver food to the beach during the summer months.
Hidalgo said beachgoers want to order from local eateries but are reluctant to give up their oceanfront parking spaces.
Delivery services face obstacles because there is no safe place to meet up with customers and double parking is out of the question.
Hidalgo said he attempted two beachfront deliveries in two years.
“They were disasters,” he told the mayor.
Fox said he would look into designating one or more locations along the boardwalk where food could be dropped off securely for pickup by customers.