Question of Bar in City Hall Put up to Commission

Bar in City Hall - AI Stock Photo

Camden Courier-Post – August 12, 1936

Veterans Offered Twelfth Floor, Want to Take Liquor Along

BLEAKLY OPPOSES MOVE

To drink or not to drink (over a bar) in City Hall — that is the question.

Whether there is a difference between dispensing beer in the municipality’s official home and other city-owned property is a problem to be settled by the city commissioners, possibly with the help of D. Frederick Burnett, commissioner of alcoholic beverage control.

S. Raymond Dobbs, of Commissioner Frank J. Hartmann’s office, thinks there can be no legal objection by the city to the presence of a bar in the statuesque, 18-story building. Commissioner Hartmann is on vacation.

E. G. C. Bleakly, city solicitor, while not certain of the legal points involved says that the very idea of dispensing the foamy brew in City Hall is “ridiculous, a very bad thing and would tend to lower the morale of the city.”

May Become Oasis

If Dobbs carries his point, the twelfth floor of the municipal building may become even more popular than the health department, where marriage licenses are issued. It may become, in fact, an oasis, a place where city editors, for example, will call first when seeking reporters assigned to city hall.

The controversy arose over an offer made to the city by a large company which operates a chain of parking lots, to lease city property at Broadway and Benson street.

The property has two buildings on it now, and they are occupied by Camden Post No. 980, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and August F. Walter Chapter No. 4, Disabled American Veterans of the World War.

Fifteen years ago the city fathers spent $50,500 to provide quarters for these two organizations, either in accordance with, or beyond an act by the State Legislature. That’s another controversial point — whether municipalities must provide their veterans with meeting places or club houses. But more of that later.

Now in Poor Condition

Today the two buildings, at 308 and 310 Broadway are, according to Dobbs, in poor physical condition. Dobbs is in charge of city property.

“It would cost at least $2000 to put them in good shape now,” he says. “There is no appropriation in the budget for that purpose. And if we wait until next year, it probably will cost twice that much for repairs.

“We have an offer from a company which proposes to demolish the present properties, level off the ground at its own expense and pay the city $1800 per year rental for a term of 10 years.

“However, the applicant is willing to have the lease provide that the city may terminate it any time after two years, by giving 90 days’ written notice.

“The rental is about $700 more per year than the unimproved land would produce in taxes on the basis of other Broadway assessments in the vicinity.

“Of course this property will probably become to valuable, within a few years, to be continuously used as a parking place, but it is Commissioner Hartmann’s thought that during the two years it would be so used under the terms of the lease, a purchaser might be found who would erect a substantial building upon the lot.

Merchants Favor Plan

Dobbs explained these facts to the Retail Merchants Division of the Chamber of Commerce and asked for an opinion from that body. J. Price Myers, chairman of the division, replied that the merchants voted unanimously to approve the proposal, provided the city should retain the privilege of cancelling the lease at the expiration of two years and also provided satisfactory headquarters are provided for the veterans organizations now occupying the buildings.

Dobbs thereupon contacted the veterans and offered them the use of the eleventh and twelfth floors of City Hall.

“They seem to want to stay on Broadway, or close to it, which would seem to eliminate 805 Linden,” Dobbs explained today.

“The Disabled Veterans, who are occupying 310 Broadway, are willing to move to city hall, but the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who have a bar on the second floor at 308, are wondering what will become of their bar if they move into the building.

“Solicitor Bleakly has ruled that no laws exist forbidding beer on city property. There has been a general impression to the contrary, and since the point was cleared up, Convention Hall has been rented twice in the last month to organizations which dispensed beer there.

Revenue Has Been Lost

“The city has lost considerable revenue because of the mistaken belief that permits to sell beer could not be obtained for city property.”

But Bleakly contends there is a difference between beer flowing on city property leased out, and the city’s own municipal building.

“I certainly don’t think beer should be served in city hall, and I don’t think it ever will be,” Bleakly said. “While this is only a personal opinion, I would be opposed to the presence of a bar in the building. But it is a question for the commissioners to decide.”

The two properties were purchased by the city in 1921, while Charles H. Ellis was mayor, before commission form of government. The veterans had been meeting in city hall, but it was suggested the building was too crowded. There was no bar then.

The residence of the late George Holl, at 310 Broadway, was sold by his heirs to a corporation known as the Reliance Realty Company, which sold it to the city for $36,000. The building next door, at 308 Broadway was sold by Israel Weitzman and Louis Tartar to the city for $14,500.

Serial bonds bearing 4½ percent interest were issued against the total amount of the purchases, and bought by the city’s sinking fund as an investment. Some have matured; $30,500 worth still are outstanding.


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