By John Burton
RED BANK – The owners of a popular downtown nightspot will have a chance next month to address the charges against the business, which could result in a 30-day closure with a conviction.
Owners of FIXX, 26 West Front St., are facing two police-issued summons arising from early morning brawls on Sept. 22 and Oct. 6 that are alleged to have occurred as the patrons from the nightclub left the establishment at closing time.
According to police Capt. Darren McConnell, the bar was charged under state statute and issued two administrative summonses charging it violated provisions of its liquor license, “for allowing brawling and disturbing acts of violence.”
In response to the summons the council has scheduled an administrative hearing on Wednesday, Nov. 13, during which the governing body will evaluate the charges, hear from the owners and police and possibly render a decision.
As required by law, the council will act as the local agent for the state Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC), Mayor Pasquale Menna said.
A first conviction for the violation could result in a 10-day liquor license suspension; a second conviction could mean an up-to-20-day suspension, McConnell said.
Borough Council President Arthur V. Murphy III, who is also police commissioner, and Menna declined to go into detail about the charges or the discuss the location’s history because of their role in the upcoming hearing.
Murphy did, however, note, “It’s an ongoing situation over there that has to be dealt with.”
Michael and Kathleen Gilson, Little Silver, and their partners bought the location in 1994, initially naming the club Chubby’s. In 2007, they took sole ownership and, when plans to tear it down and rebuild as a sports bar/restaurant and residential development fell through, they renamed it FIXX.
A possible closure “would be harmful financially for not only us, but the many young people who we have working for us,” said Kathleen Gilson on Wednesday.
A temporary closure would also impact their vendors, she said.
The Sept. 22 incident started in the bar area and spilled out onto West Front Street where as many as 200 patrons were fighting creating “substantial public-safety problems,” Menna said.
Three people were injured, requiring medical attention; three participants arrested; and two borough police officers received minor injuries, McConnell said.
The Oct. 6 melee involved about 200 to 300 of the location’s customers “engaged in unruly, tumultuous behavior,” causing damage and disrupting traffic, Menna said.
Borough police had to call in approximately 30 officers from departments as far away as Long Branch and Keyport, according to McConnell.
“It was one of the largest disturbances I’ve seen in 25 years,” McConnell said of the Oct. 6 incident.
Police and council members have noted FIXX has had problems with fights and disturbances in the past. Those past incidents led the police and borough council to place a series of conditions on its liquor license, including stopping music earlier than closing time; having additional security wearing identifying clothing on-site; informing police of special events; and hiring off-duty police for security at the police chief’s discretion.
Those conditions were rescinded with the club’s July, 1 license renewal because there weren’t any disruptions at the site for some time, McConnell said.
The nightclub has had more incidents requiring a police response than other bars in town – “but not dramatically higher compared to other locations,” McConnell said. “It’s more the severity” of those incidents. “There seems to be a lack of control in the bar.”