Bar owner in danger of losing license accuses town of racism

Posted: Updated:
KENILWORTH -

The owner of a Kenilworth bar that is in danger of losing its liquor license is accusing borough officials of racism.

Jessica Quintana owns Gavelstone Bar and Grill on Michigan Avenue. Quintana says that officials want to shut her down for 30 days starting June 15. She is concerned the decision may be due to the fact that many of her customers are African American.

Quintana points to comments made by Anthony Cuppari, and alternate member of the borough planning board, who also owns properties near the Gavelstone.

“They’re highly offensive, even though I’m not African American,” Quintana says.

Cuppari is heard making the comments in video recording posted on social media. The recording is a telephone conversation between Cuppari and one of the bartenders concerning complaints from neighbors about noise and loitering by customers at the bar.

“They’re coming into a bar to get drunk, to have a good time. So we are not seeing the good side of these people to begin with, OK?” Cuppari is heard saying.

The conversation continues with Cuppari saying, "Unfortunately, a lot of times, culturally, it is different. We don't drink Hennessy here or Ciroc. It's things like that that are really kind of different."

Cuppari has since resigned from his post on the planning board.

Gavelstone is the same bar that served Ibn Collins, a man arrested for allegedly running down and killing a teacher in Linden earlier this year. Meghan Crilly was crossing the street when police say Collins ran a red light.

In response to the telephone comments, Kenilworth Borough Attorney Frank Capece says in a statement, "We do not condone the intemperate and inappropriate opinions of an alternate member of the planning board regarding license review of a local tavern."

The attorney says the bar was cited due to its connection to the deadly hit-and-run, plus complaints about the behavior of the bar customers who are accused of being loud and urinating on neighbors’ lawns.

News 12 New Jersey attempted to reach Cuppari, but was not successful. He has told other media outlets that he did not say anything racist.

Quintana says she is appealing the decision to shut down her bar.

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