North Bergen has again amended its business license regulations.
Mayor Nicholas Sacco and the North Bergen Board of Commissioners voted to adopt an ordinance amending the township’s business license requirements and controls at its September 7 meeting after the ordinance was introduced at a meeting in August.
The township previously adopted ordinances setting fees and requiring licenses for business and occupations located in the township in 1985, 2009, 2019, and most recently in March of this year.
Officials said the reason behind this amendment is because there is a need to modify the appeal procedure where a business license is denied, suspended, revoked, or non-renewed, according to the resolution. There is also a need to set certain additional parameters for the denial, suspension, revocation, or non-renewal of a business license where a business repeatedly violates laws, rules, regulations or township ordinances.
Denials, suspensions, revocations, or non-renewals of licenses
The ordinance dictates that when on two occasions a business has been found to be in violation of any federal, state or township law, rule, regulation, or ordinance related to the conduct or operations of the business, the business licensing clerk may suspend a business license for up to a six-month period. On the third occasion, the clerk may deny, suspend, revoke, or non-renew a business license.
Violations of laws, rules, regulations or ordinances which may serve as the basis of a denial, suspension, revocation, or non-renewal of a business license include but are not limited to: the New Jersey Sanitary Code; the sale or distribution of tobacco, smoking, vaping, flavored, or other products; township zoning ordinances; township ordinances requiring a certificate of occupancy or certificate of continuing occupancy; towing and any township ordinances related to towing; the Massage and Bodywork Therapist Licensing Act; the State Uniform Construction and Fire codes and regulations; the township’s Property Maintenance Code; and any amendment, supplement, or successor of said laws, rules, regulations or ordinances.
The denial, suspension, revocation, or non-renewal of a business license may be based on violations of any combination of said laws, rules, regulations or ordinances. According to the ordinance, there does not need to be two or three violations of a single law, rule, regulation or ordinance. Violations found by any court or administrative agency may serve as the basis for a denial, suspension, revocation, or non-renewal of a business license.
In determining the number of violations, a successor business will be responsible for the predecessor business’s violations, if there is common ownership between the businesses. According to the ordinance, common ownership is considered ownership or control of at least 10 percent of the successor and the predecessor businesses.
Appeals procedure modified under new ordinance
According to the ordinance, when there is a denial, suspension, revocation, or non-renewal of a business license, the applicant for a license or license holder may appeal. In the case of a suspension or revocation of a business license, the business licensing clerk will provide 30 days written notice of the suspension or revocation.
The appeal will be filed in writing with the business licensing clerk within 30 days of the date the township mails notice of denial, suspension, revocation, or non-renewal of a business license. As part of their appeal, the applicant may file with the township any documents and written argument the applicant or licensee wishes the township to consider.
Provided a timely appeal is filed, the Business License Review Committee will consider the appeal based on the written record submitted by the applicant. The committee consists of the Chief of Police or their designee, the Township Administrator, and the Director of Community Development.
Within 30 days of the submission of the applicant’s or licensee’s appeal, the Business License Review Committee will issue a written decision, which will be final, according to the ordinance. If the committee does not reach a unanimous decision, the majority vote will determine things.
The appeal process replaces any prior appeal process in the township’s prior business licensing ordinances. The changes take affect 20 days after passage, according to the ordinance.
Stopping businesses selling cigarettes and other products to minors
At the September meeting, Town Attorney Tom Kobin explained the gist of the ordinance at the request of Sacco.
“Lately we’ve been having some issues with some businesses, a lot of them really, places that are selling cigarettes and things like that, selling them to minors,” Kobin said. “It’s very difficult to get enforcement on these things. But one of the mechanisms that we built in here is if you persistently violate certain statutes, then we’re allowed to revoke the business license as a way to try and enforce some of these laws. There is other provisions that can be violated too and allows to revoke the business license if necessary. So that’s the idea behind this, better enforcement.”
Kobin noted it will be a deterrent: “Hopefully we won’t have to utilize it, but now it will be there.” Sacco agreed: “Maybe the threat of it existing will be enough.”
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