At its meeting Thursday, the Hopewell Borough Council voted to permit alcohol to be served, in some circumstances, at the Hopewell Train Station.
According to Councilmember Ryan Kennedy, the ordinance, which passed 5-1 does three separate things: “1) increases the fees for the station (unrelated to alcohol); 2) requires proof of insurance for all users of the train station (whereas there used to be an exemption for Borough residents); and 3) now permits beer and wine at events under certain circumstances with special insurance from the person holding the event.”
Beer and wine will be limited to small events inside the Train Station building unless the applicant obtains a special “Social Affairs” permit from the State and then only under certain circumstances. “Nonprofits such as the Hopewell Block Party could have events outside as well,” stated Kennedy.
Voting in favor of the ordinance were five of the six Council members: Chris Fossel, Ryan Kennedy, Samara McAuliffe, Schuyler Morehouse, and Debra Stuhler (Mayor Anzano votes only in the event of a tie). David Mackie voted “no,” noting that he appreciated the thinking on both sides of the debate, but ultimately was not convinced that the ability to have alcohol at the Train Station is needed and also did not find that that risks were fully mitigated.
Several residents spoke during public comment both for and against the initiative. Meg Carsky-Wilson asked whether the fee structure could be adjusted to collect additional money for events with beer and wine. While some members of the Council agreed, the consensus was to commit to a regular review of the fees to make sure that the Borough was covering its operating costs and that the space was appropriately available to residents.
Other Borough residents spoke, including Ted Klett who inquired whether the rules would be impacted by any future legalization of cannabis and two residents who spoke about general concerns with alcohol use. Several other residents made or sent in statements in favor of the ordinance. Heidi Wilenius raised concerns about the number of outdoor events and the possible impact on other park users around the Train Station.
While no specific additional actions were taken after the public spoke, the Borough Administrator, Michele Hovan, noted that there is a State-set limit set to the number of permits that can be issued for outdoor events. Further, she stated that, like the fee issue, the Council agreed to regularly review the impact of the changes and revisit in the future as needed.
With his affirmative vote, Council President Morehouse remarked that this issue has been revisited several times in recent years, illustrating the Burough’s commitment to respond to residents’ needs and interests in using this special Borough amenity.
“Hopewell Borough has many excellent restaurants and event venues – but not everyone can afford to rent out a room in a restaurant or the theatre for a baby shower or other family event. This change makes our beautiful train station available to our residents for those special occasions,” Kennedy said.