The party last Thursday at EZ Global Headquarters may have been a fundraiser for the West Cape May Christmas Parade, but it was perfect summer weather… Aleksey Moryakov
The Never-Ending Story
WE DON’T know about you, but we’re having a hard time believing just how long this Stewart’s Root Beer saga has dragged on. The whole thing started way back on May 8, when Stewart’s received its mercantile license, which allows for 48 seats. In June, Code Enforcement Officer John Queenan counted 113 seats in the establishment. And the same number again in July. And 90 in August. Formal warnings were issued to the restaurant, as were summonses. And they were all ignored.
Understandably, other business owners on the Washington Street Mall — the ones who either operate with the number of seats they’re allowed or opt to pay $5000 for every four extra they want, per the rules laid out by the Parking Meter Account Trust — were peeved.
On August 28, there was a municipal court hearing which resulted in the issuance of $600 worth of fines to Stewart’s, a mere slap on the wrist according to some. But on August 29, in accordance with the city code book, City Clerk Louise Cummiskey delivered a real and long-awaited, at least according to the aforementioned business owners, punishment: the revocation of Stewart’s mercantile license. Now, we figured, the restaurant would be forced to rectify a wrong, and start playing by the rules, especially since city council voted unanimously to uphold Cummiskey’s decision following an appeal by Stewart’s.
And yet, this wasn’t the case. Stewart’s remained open — without a license. We emailed Cummiskey, asking for the repercussion of such behavior. “The City of Cape May has issued a summons to both [co-owner] Sean Dougherty and Stewart’s of Cape May, LLC, on a daily basis, for operation of a business without a proper Mercantile License,” Cummiskey told us.
But we weren’t sure what good another summons would do, considering the first few seemed to hold such little weight with Stewart’s. So we called Deputy Mayor Jack Wichterman to find out at what point the city can say, simply, enough is enough, march in there and shut Stewart’s down once and for all. We were taken aback by what we learned. “The city is being sued by Stewart’s Root Beer,” Wichterman said. And what’s more, City Manager Bruce MacLeod as well as Louise Cummiskey are being sued as individuals as well. On what grounds, we wanted to know? “They claim that we’re harassing them,” Wichterman told us. “It doesn’t make sense to me.”
Do they have a case? We can’t venture a guess, and neither, at this point, can council member (and lawyer by profession) Bill Murray. “I can’t speculate,” he told us last Monday. But Murray was able to tell us that Stewart’s, after the final decision from council was made, reapplied for another mercantile license and was denied. Now, they’ve appealed to a superior court, and they’re suing in the meantime. “I do know that what they’re asking for is equitable relief,” Murray said. “They’re filing a lawsuit seeking an order directing the clerk to immediately issue a mercantile license. They have to show immediate and irreparable harm; that’s usually the legal basis for a court issuing an injunction.”
We’re not lawyers, but we’re inclined to think that the “harm” Stewart’s is feeling, if that’s the case, is entirely deserved. When you don’t follow the rules, you have to face the music. It’s been said that Stewart’s co-owner Patrick Rosenello, council president of North Wildwood, has political connections which may have some sway with powerful people in these parts. We don’t know about that (and we couldn’t ask him about it, either; when we called, he told us his lawyer had advised him against speaking to the press), but the fact that this could still be going on at all makes us wonder if there isn’t something strange going on here.
At the time this issue went press, we were still about 12 hours away from the October 9 meeting at City Hall to discuss Cape May’s legal council for the impending proceedings. (City Solicitor Tony Monzo has to sit this one out, due to a conflict of interest.) We’re curious to see how it pans out, and as always, we’ll keep you posted.
A Night To Remember
Last Thursday was one of those special nights… a night when a big crowd of people had a great time, enjoying the company of other townsfolk (and visitors), enjoying, too, the generosity of local business owners and, in the process, performing a great service to their community.
We are referring to the party we hosted here at EZ Global HQ, the purpose of which was twofold — to celebrate the existence of the Essential Lucky Bones Cookbook, which we published earlier this year, and to raise funds for the West Cape May Christmas Parade.
On both counts, mission accomplished! We celebrated the cookbook by consuming 65 pitch-perfect pizzas (the last 30 of which were consumed in seven minutes — you’re human seagulls!), generously supplied by the good people from Lucky Bones, and we sold 42 copies of the book, which were signed by Chief Lucky Boner David Craig and our own Diane Stopyra, who compiled the book.
To wash down those pizza slices, along with delicious treats from Seaside Cheese and Depot Market, there was Reisling, Blush and Table Red from our friends at Cape May Winery. For dessert, there was organic ice cream from Bliss, and some coffee and cookies from Higher Grounds. As always (this was our fourth party this year), it felt a little bit like a festival, and what we particularly loved about last Thursday was the amount of money you raised for the parade — $3,500.
It was great to see the Parade Lady, Charlotte Daily (who started the event 47 years ago) and her granddaughter Cinnamon (what a beautiful name) Kelly, who spent her evening weaving through the throngs (there were at least 300 people there) filling up a big collection jar, thanks to your generosity. Thanks also to Santa Claus, played by John Alvarez (we are guessing that kids under the age of six don’t read this column – if they do, sorry for spoiling Christmas!), who manfully donned a thick red suit and a thick white beard on a VERY balmy night, and the Mayor of West Cape May, Pam Kaithern, who goes door to door all around the borough trying to raise the funds for a parade that takes not a cent from the taxpayers — the cost of around $35,000 comes entirely from donations.
In order for Pam and Charlotte to meet those costs, there are a bunch of other upcoming fundraisers, so here’s a handy list…
Sunday, October 14: Enjoy a Southern Fried Chicken dinner at the Chalfonte, courtesy of Dot Burton’s nationally acclaimed recipe. Tickets are $25 and are available from the WCM Borough Hall or at the Chalfonte on the night, though you’re advised to book in advance.
Friday, October 26: Join the scouts and families of West Cape May Scout Pack 73 for a festive 5k dusk run. Wear your Halloween costume and run for the fun of it, or cheer on your pals. Contact email@example.com for more information. Or call Kate at 609-204-0999.
Thursday, November 1: Don’t miss the Third Annual Winter Wonderland Parade Fundraiser in Congress Hall’s ballroom. There will be live entertainment, story time with Mrs Claus and Blue the pig, plus sweet and savory treats, and a great silent auction. Donation of $20 per person.
Monday, November 5: The Pilot House is hosting a Traditional Spaghetti Dinner between 4pm and 7:30pm, with all proceeds benefiting the parade. Cost is $15 per person, and tickets are available at the door.
Sunday, November 18: The West Cape May Volunteer Fire Company is hosting Dinner and a Show, a new event on the fundraising circuit. There will be a dinner between 4pm and 7pm at the fire hall, followed by the show, “Christmas in Barry’s Opryland” in Borough Hall starting at 7:15pm. At the dinner, you get to enjoy the fire company’s secret new Chicken Pot Pie, and at the show, you get to enjoy the musical magic of local legend Barry Tischler, who will perform Christmas tunes, country style. The combo ticket is $30. Or, you can buy dinner or the show separately if you only want to partake of one of these events — $20 each. Tickets from WCM Borough Hall or at the door.
Go out and enjoy yourself, and know that you’re benefiting a classic American small-town event. As always, we’ll see you there!
A Day That Will Inspire You
NORRIS Clark has spent a good deal of his adult life trying to bring meaningful cultural events to his beloved Cape May. In the late 1980s, he was a co-founder of the Cape May Music Festival, organized a wildly successful photography workshop with world famous photographer Art Kane, in conjunction with Kodak, and has organized dozens of classes in music, writing, theater, architecture and philosophy through the years. He is also a big supporter of the Cape May Forum and organized the successful re-enactment, in May this year, of the famous race between Henry Ford and Louis Chevrolet.
In short, Norris is an imaginative, resourceful man who never tires of making Cape May a better place in which to live. And we’re very excited about his latest project, TEDx Cape May. Some of you will know about TED, a non-profit group which runs conferences all over the world, attracting speakers who discuss inspiring subjects, with the mission devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. On Sunday, October 21, Norris is hosting a Cape May version of the event, at Congress Hall. The title of the event is Recreation and Re-creation and will feature 12 talks from some of the regon’s most creative and accomplished innovators and artists. Guest speakers include Curtis Bashaw, of Cape Resorts Group, Jack Morey of Morey’s Piers, Danny Cohen of Fishermen’s Energy, B&B pioneer Tom Carroll, and Jack Wright of Exit Zero.
Tickets cost $50, but this includes a gourmet lunch box and open bar reception. In other words, you get to enjoy 12 inspiring speeches for practically nothing. Register at TEDxCapeMay.com.