Officials will try to close Breakfast Club 340 patrons counted

at club Saturday night; 200 are permitted

Staff Writer

Officials will try to close Breakfast Club
340 patrons counted

at club Saturday night; 200 are permitted


Staff Writer

Lingering concerns that Breakfast Club 80 is truly a nightclub, not a sit-down restaurant, have prompted Old Bridge officials to take legal action.

Township Attorney William Ruggierio announced at Monday night’s Township Council meeting that he expects to file an injunction in state Superior Court "in the near future" as a means of dealing with repeated violations of local zoning laws and the 200-person occupancy limit at the Route 516 establishment.

The injunction will state that Breakfast Club owner Michael Vanleeuwen has continued to violate the limit and that he obtained a certificate of occupancy to open the business in March under false pretenses, Ruggierio said.

"Once we file the complaint, we will be before the judge in no longer than two weeks," Ruggierio told the council.

Township Fire Marshal Richard Diaz and Police Chief Thomas Collow will back up Ruggierio when he files the injunction, according to Mayor Jim Phillips.

"Bill Ruggierio is about 98 percent ready to go on the injunction," said Phillips, who is also the acting director of public safety.

Meanwhile, Councilwoman Lucille Panos, whose Ward 6 is where the Breakfast Club is located, described a chaotic scene when she went to look into her constituents’ complaints about overcrowding at the club late Saturday night.

Shortly before midnight, many nightclub patrons were outside the club on Route 516 and Englishtown Road, Panos said. The club’s valet parking service was parking vehicles on nearby residential streets, and patrons had also parked in athletic fields and in the lots of other neighboring businesses, as well as that of the Congregation Beth Ohr next door, she said.

"When I went there on Saturday night, I felt like I was in Fort Lauderdale at spring break," Panos said. "Here it is midnight, and people in large groups are crossing Englishtown Road. At 11 p.m., it’s a whole other scene."

At that time, Panos contacted Diaz’s office, and one of his representatives came out and subsequently counted 340 persons inside the club. Police were then summoned to the club and ordered all the patrons to exit the building, according to Sgt. Eugene Regan of the Old Bridge Police Department.

Once the building was emptied, 200 patrons were then allowed back in, he added.

"Everyone left in an orderly manner," Regan said of the patrons. "[The police] kept the peace."

Panos suggested that until the township gets an injunction, more police should be assigned to patrol the area when the nightclub is open.

Ward 5 Councilman G. Kevin Calogera supported Ruggierio’s move and reiterated his belief that Vanleeuwen deceived the township’s building and code enforcement offices into treating the Breakfast Club as a restaurant rather than a nightclub.

"I am upset with the arrogance of the owner of this establishment," Calogera said. "Instead of having a duck, we have giraffe, or whatever it is they say."

Last week, Vanleeuwen told Greater Media Newspapers he was not aware of the township’s plans to seek the injunction. He did not wish to comment further on the matter. In the past, Vanleeuwen has defended his operation by stating that he has always been in compliance with the township.

The Breakfast Club occupies a 50-year-old building at Route 516 and Old Matawan Road that last housed McGuire’s Sports Bar and Restaurant. The building, which is physically situated between the Miller Elementary School and Congregation Beth Ohr, has a rear parking lot with 67 stalls.

In October, the council voted 7-0 to renew the Breakfast Club’s liquor license, but with a number of conditions pertaining to patron occupancy limits, parking, floor plan and security.

One of those conditions prohibits Vanleeuwen from offering valet parking on or around the building’s premises. At that time, Assistant Township Attorney Carol Berlen indicated that the owner would have to receive a waiver or variance from the proper advisory board, such as the Zoning Board of Adjustment or Planning Board, in order to offer valet parking and still be in compliance.

The Breakfast Club is located in a commercial-neighborhood (CN) zone. A restaurant with a bar, such as McGuire’s former operation, is permitted in that zone, but a dance hall or nightclub is not, according to the township’s code enforcement regulations.

When Vanleeuwen first attempted to obtain the liquor license held by New Jersey Wine and Spirits Inc. in November 2002, he told the council that he would operate the Breakfast Club as a bar with a dance floor.

The council, however, questioned Vanleeuwen about the na­ture of his planned operation be­cause he intended to dismantle McGuire’s kitchen. They also ques­tioned how he would fit the vehi­cles from his projected number of patrons into a 67-spot parking lot.

In a subsequent hearing, Van­leeuwen told the council that he would instead run a restaurant with tables and a small kitchen.

The council continued to be skeptical and expressed concerns that he actually planned to run a nightclub, given the restaurant’s limited number of tables and small menu. The council ultimately de­nied his application for the license.

However, Vanleeuwen later ob­tained his liquor license by pur­chasing stock in New Jersey Wine and Spirits Inc., and opened his 1980s-themed business in March. McGuire’s closed in the fall of 2001.