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Bernards May Soon Toss Its Bowling Alley Law

NEW INFO: Antiquated ordinance also covers requirements for setting up public billiards and pool table rooms.

Bernards Township's very own ordinance that sets requirements for establishing public "billiards and pool rooms" or "bowling alleys" may soon be history.

At Tuesday's Township Committee meeting, Denise Szabo said she recently discovered the law, enacted in 1919 and amended in 1968, while going through the municipality's file of ordinances. She later explained she has been trying to clear out outdated laws.

Township Administrator Bruce McArthur said it requires anyone who is opening either a billiards hall or bowling alley to first obtain permission from township officials.

McArthur said his own father had worked in a bowling alley in Basking Ridge in the early part of the 20th century. He said the elder McArthur reset bowling pins by hand in the bowling establishment that was in the center of town — right in the building now occupied by the restaurant, , or Ridge Pizza, as it still is popularly called.

The township clerk's official explanation for a revised ordinance repealing the previous ordinance is, "There are no remaining Billiard and Pool Rooms, or Bowling Alleys in the Township, therefore, I recommended that the associated licensing ordinances be repealed."

The existing law states, "No person shall keep a pool or billiard table without having first obtained a license and paid the required license fee. The license for keeping a pool or billiard table shall include the rooms or premises devoted to this activity."

However, the law stated that requirement "shall not apply to any bona fide social, athletic, business, fraternal, religious, charitable, benevolent or other non-profit-making organizations having pool or billiard tables solely for the recreation of its members, nor shall it apply to the use of a pool or billiard table in a private residence, provided that, except in the case of a private residence, persons or organizations claiming exemption shall file with the Township Clerk the information required in an application for license and the information that discloses their exempt status."

The Township Committee on Tuesday approved for introduction of the proposal to remove the provisions of the old ordinance from municipal codes.

But that prompted Township Committeeman Scott Spitzer to offer a word of caution.

Spitzer, a longtime attorney, said he wants the township's attorney to make sure that the township wouldn't be indicating that either a pool hall or a billiards hall is a permitted use in Bernards Township by repealing the law requiring permission to set up either one.

The second reading of the law, with a public hearing, is scheduled for 8 p.m. on June 12, at the municipal building at 1 Collyer Lane. At that time, the committee is scheduled to take a final vote on whether to repeal the old law.

Other provisions of the law, as it now exists:

  • Require an investigation into the "applicant's character and business responsibility" as well as the premises.
  • Prohibits card playing on the premises.
  • Prohibits anyone under 18 from playing pool or billiards unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.
  • In addition, "No license shall be issued for the operation of any pool or billiard parlor which is located within 500 feet of any school, church or publicly owned building or within 1,000 feet of another pool or billiard parlor."

Pool or billiard halls within Bernards Township must be closed on Sundays.

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