A Day in Court?

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A Day in Court?

RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The owner of a 7-Eleven said he plans to sue the borough he is located in over an ordinance that would make it illegal for a convenience store to stay open past midnight, the Herald News reported. He said the ordinance, passed yesterday, seems to be aimed only at his business.

Nasser Nasser, president of NOH Inc., said the Borough Council has halted his efforts to open his store, on Jackson Avenue in the West End, by the original opening date, tentatively set for early May.

"I believe we are being singled out," Nasser told the Herald News last week. "We should have gotten our certificate of occupancy a long time ago. The town has been blocking us."

The ordinance requires convenience stores in residential areas of the borough -- but not in manufacturing areas or in the highway commercial zoning district -- to close between midnight and 5 a.m. Violators could be fined up to $500 for each offense or receive up to 30 days in jail.

The measure was drafted after residents expressed concerns that the opening of the 7-Eleven would change the "Norman Rockwell" character of the borough, attract the wrong elements and potentially put a neighboring store out of business, the Herald News reported.

The 7-Eleven would be the only establishment in the area to be affected by the new law, Nasser said.

Margaret Chabris, a spokeswoman for Dallas-based 7-Eleven, said that before a store opens, the company conducts market studies to determine where there is a need for a 24-hour operation and if the area could support it.

"We determined the town could certainly support a 24-hour operation, and we do bring a lot of benefits, more than doughnuts and coffee," she told the Herald News. And, according to the company, more than 10 million U.S. residents are awake at 3 a.m.

"Experience has taught us that there is a loss of sales at other times of the day if a 24-hour store reduces its hours of operation," Chabris said via e-mail to the paper.

A resident who spoke out against the 7-Eleven at a previous council meeting said she and her husband would boycott the store when it opens.

"At least this would limit the hours and hopefully the disruptive elements that might be brought to the neighborhood," she told the Herald News.

Mayor Bernadette McPherson said she hopes that the issue would not end up in court.

"I certainly hope they would demonstrate their willingness to be a good neighbor and to abide by the ordinance and to not put us in a position where we would waste borough resources in any legal action," she told the paper.

Chabris wouldn't comment on what action 7-Eleven might take regarding the ordinance, and Nasser said he hasn't yet filed a lawsuit challenging it.

The store has received a temporary certificate of occupancy and is set to open, a construction official said.

Nasser said the borough's action to make 24-hour operation illegal is discriminatory and comes too late in the application process. When NOC began inquiring about new locations, a company representative was told by a borough official that there was no law restricting 24-hour operations.

"Had they told us that there [were] no 24-hour [operations] here, we would have never come to this location," Nasser told the paper. "I don't think we did anything wrong. We came in with good intentions." Nasser's company also owns 7-Eleven stores in Wayne and Hackensack, N.J., and another is planned for Lodi, N.J.

Richard Reyes, Borough Council president and a Paterson police officer, said he doesn't see why any store should be open in residential areas after midnight. "[This] goes in line with protecting our neighborhood, making sure that our environment is safe, making sure our streets are clean," Reyes told the Herald News.

A local resident was concerned about the traffic increase and the effect 7-Eleven would have on a local sweet shop, which is next door and sells some of the same items as 7-Eleven. "They are going to put [the owner] out of business," he said.