Jersey City to repeal law restricting chain stores Downtown
BY TERRENCE T. MCDONALDtmcdonald@jjournal.com
The Jersey Journal
Jersey City's law restricting chain stores is headed for the chopping block, with the City Council scheduled for an initial vote next week to repeal the two-year old ordinance.
The move comes three weeks after the city said it would block a CVS from opening at 70 Hudson St., a Waterfront office building where the pharmacy giant had signed a lease for a 20,000-square-foot location.
The city enacted the ban in May 2015, when Mayor Steve Fulop was still eyeing a run for governor and looking for support in towns like Montclair where liberal voters say they favor mom-and-pop shops over chain stores.
At the time Fulop pushed the council to adopt the law, he said it was an effort to help Downtown retain some of its character. In a Huffington Post column from June 2015, Fulop wrote that "the commitment small business owners bring to a city helps make their communities more livable."
But the ban "may not hold up under strict scrutiny of federal laws," according to the ordinance set for approval next week that would start the repeal process.
John Holub, president of the New Jersey Retail Merchant Association, said the city's reversal is good news for businesses. The group opposes chain store restrictions, saying government officials should not try to control market forces in this way.
"It's encouraging to see that someone has clearly come to their senses," Holub said. "It was a misguided policy from the get-go."
Jersey City's law restricts chain stores from taking up more than 30 percent of ground-floor commercial space in any one lot in several noncontiguous areas Downtown.
Administration critics chuckled when it argued that the new Columbus Drive Krispy Kreme, the doughnut chain that opened this year inside the zone where chains are restricted, isn't really a chain store because it is a unique "factory" location that provides doughnuts to other retail stores.
The city has declined to say how many certificates of occupancy it has threatened to deny over the chain store ban.