Tommy's Tavern + Tap storefront
Tommy's Tavern + Tap

Jersey Shore Town Agrees to Amend Noise Law After Restaurant Suit

The mayor and city council of Sea Bright, N.J., were accused by a local restaurant of collusion and violating civil rights

The beautiful beach town of Sea Bright, New Jersey, held a meeting on August 1 to revise a recently adopted noise ordinance after being taken to court by the owners of Tommy’s Tavern + Tap. The owners’ lawsuit alleges that the ordinance is too vague and “fails to specify the activity that it seeks to prohibit.”

In compliance with an earlier amendment of the noise ordinance, the restaurant had not installed loudspeakers nor does it have live entertainment. However, its owners’ court filing points out that “loud talking” and “other continuous noise” could be considered breaking the law under the newer statute. Those who violate the ordinance four or more times face up to 90 days in jail.

Thomas Bonafiglio, one of the owners, said he would agree to settle as long as the city paid his legal fees. He said he felt more optimistic about the upcoming council meeting, but still felt he shouldn’t have had to bring the lawsuit in the first place.

“My wife said it’s like the movie Footloose,” he said. “They tried to prevent the human voice… How do you limit that? Are people going to talk lower?”

The suit, which was filed on July 5, lists eight complaints against defendants Mayor Dina Long and the six members of the borough council. Among those is the claim that these elected officials violated the New Jersey Open Public Meetings Act, which requires state officials to give adequate notice and advertisement before making any official decisions, which must also then be done publicly.

The plaintiffs of the case are managing partner Thomas Bonafiglio and two limited liability companies, 1030 Partners and 1030 Liquor Partners, who applied for an expansion of the restaurant’s parking lot. The application was approved on May 19, around which time Bonafligo and his attorney, Robert F. Muñoz, allege that Mayor Long and the borough council spoke with each other on the matter through emails, texts, and phone calls rather than publicly. One of the complaints in their lawsuit states that this proves  “intent to act as a unit.”

The filing further states that the plaintiffs have been “deprived… of their equal protection and due process, and the privileges secured by the laws and Constitution of this State.” This is due to the fact that use of Tommy’s Tavern + Tap’s outdoor seating area is being limited by the restriction, which does not specify an acceptable noise level, the suit states. As a result, the ordinance “substantially destroys [their] beneficial use of the property by the threat of imposing excessive fines, and even imprisonment, for violations of the noise ordinance.” The filing also states that the borough of Sea Bright has not given the owners of Tommy’s Tavern + Tap proper compensation for the value of the property that has been “taken” from them.

Attorney for the plaintiffs Robert F. Muñoz declined to comment on a pending case, but the suit called the new law “arbitrary, unreasonable, capricious, and illegal.”

Curious about other arbitrary and unreasonable local laws? Check out The Daily Meal’s list of the Weirdest Laws in Every State.

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