By Art Gallagher
Everything that could go wrong did go wrong for Red Bank Council President Art Murphy yesterday when RedBankGreen posted a video of his drunken vulgar rant with former patrons of the former Red Bank business, Lucky Break Billiards.
Before the morning was out, the Asbury Park Press had picked up the story and Red Bank Republican Chairman Sean DiSomma was posting memes of Murphy on facebook. Murphy is a Democrat running for reelection this year. If DiSomma’s GOP candidates beat Murphy and his running mate, Councilman Michael DuPont, Republicans will control the Red Bank municipal government for the first time in this millennium.
Murphy’s drunkenness in the video probably won’t hurt him politically. Red Bank voters have demonstrated a high tolerance for alcoholism in their elected officials. Murphy’s vulgar language probably won’t hurt him either. His f-bombs make him a little less couth than Governor Chris Christie who is still in the running to be the next President of the United States.
But the back story that led to the video can and probably should hurt both Murphy and DuPont in November.
What the Democratically controlled governing body of Red Bank did to James Hertler and his pool hall, as reported by RedBankGreen, is disgraceful.
RBG has the nitty gritty, if you’re interested.
But in a nutshell, Hertler did everything right when opening his pool hall, Lucky Strike Billiards, a BYOB establishment, in 2011. He even hired former Red (faced) Bank Mayor Ed McKenna to grease the slide for him. He fully disclosed during the permitting and zoning process that BYOB was a critical element of his business plan. Once all his approvals and permits were in place, Herlter transformed a storefront that had been vacant for four years into his pool hall.
The business was growing and on the verge of profitability when, after being open for 18 months, Red Bank officials closed Lucky Break down for violating a non-existent BYOB ordinance. The Red Bank police lied at first and claimed the shut down was a the behest of then NJ Alcoholic Beverage Control Director Mike Halfacre. But Halfacre debunked that story, asserting that the ABC does not regulate BYOB establishments.
Hertler soon found himself caught in a Kafkaesque nightmare, unable to find out definitively why his customers were suddenly prohibited from doing what he believed he’d been approved for by multiple borough agencies: having private BYOB parties.
The sudden inability to offer the BYOB option to walk-in customers and private parties led to the cancellation of numerous previously booked events and a steep drop in business, said Hertler,who shut the place down in late September.
Hertler tried to make a go of it, turning customers who wanted to bring their own beer and wine into his establishment away, but it didn’t work and he closed. Murphy, in his drunken rant, blamed the closure on Hertler’s “Hippie Mother F**cker” customers being unwilling to put quarters in the Red Bank parking meters.
I called Murphy yesterday for comment about the video and about the Lucky Break fiasco. He didn’t call me back.