LAWSUIT AGAIN SEEKS TO SHUT DOWN LAKEWOOD'S LAKE TERRACE BANQUET HALL

As previously reported here on FAA News (https://www.faanews.com/2022/06/lawsuit-seeks-to-shut-lake-terrace.html), there has been an ongoing year-and-a-half long legal saga regarding the famous Lake Terrace wedding and concert hall in Lakewood ever since their industrial neighbor Clayton Associates realized that Lake Terrace never received Township Zoning Board approval for a banquet hall, and filed suit to try to shut them down.


On February 3, 2021, following an injunction hearing on the matter, Ocean County Superior Court Judge Marlene Ford signed an Interim Order permitting weddings to continue to be held at Lake Terrace pending the outcome of the lawsuit, but with several conditions including that, 1) the banquet hall must adhere to all parking restrictions including maintaining all parking on site only, and 2) there shall be no outdoor activities or events on the banquet hall property.


The basis for permitting the banquet hall to continue to operate pending the outcome of the lawsuit - despite Lake Terrace never receiving the legally required Use Variance from the Township Zoning Board - is because, somehow, the Township construction official did give a Certificate of Occupancy for a banquet hall, and therefore they do apparently have some legal basis to continue operating as such.


In December 2021, Clayton Associates filed a separate lawsuit seeking to ban all concerts at Lake Terrace on the basis that Lake Terrace never received Township Zoning Board approval for a "concert hall". Superior Court Judge Craig L. Wellerson then ordered that concerts are not to be held at all at Lake Terrace. (The concert hall issue was deemed differently than the banquet hall issue as the Township never issued a Certificate of Occupancy for the concert hall, therefore Lake Terrace had no legal standing to retain that non-permitted use).


At some point during the ensuing drama, Lake Terrace made an application to the Zoning Board for a Use Variance so they could finally seek legal approval for their banquet hall. While their application was pending they filed a motion to get the judge to declare the lawsuit moot on the basis that "this site is now in the jurisdiction of the Zoning Board". In response, attorneys for Clayton seeked court approval to shut down Lake Terrace until - if, and when - it receives Zoning Board approval. Judge Ford denied to declare the lawsuit moot. She also permitted Lake Terrace to continue to operate as a banquet hall with the February 3, 2021 restrictions, pending the outcome of the lawsuit. A short while later, Lake Terrace mysteriously withdrew their appliance from the Zoning Board.


On March 16, 2022, Lake Terrace filed a motion to modify the February 3, 2021 order to permit them to host outdoor events. Lake Terrace's attorney explained that, as the summer was coming up, the banquet hall wanted the option to host outdoor chuppah's.


In response, on April 6, 2022, Clayton filed a Cross Motion to Enforce Litigants Rights, seeking to uphold the February 3, 2021 order. Clayton advised the judge that, on March 2 (which was Lag Baomer), in violation of the February 3, 2021 order, Lake Terrace held an outdoor Lag Baomer event. Clayton complained that there was a lot of overflow parking onto the local streets and neighboring parking lots, all in violation of the February 3, 2021 order. Clayton seeked to have the judge declare Lake Terrace to be in contempt of court, shut them down, and order them to pay legal fees and fines.


At the motion hearing, Lake Terrace's attorney explained very simply that Lake Terrace had "no knowledge" of the Lag Baomer event held in their parking lot and that they never rented out their parking lot for that event.


Judge Ford declined to grant the Cross Motion to Enforce Litigants Rights, and she didn't shut down Lake Terrace, however, she also declined Lake Terrace's motion to modify the February 3, 2021 to permit them to host outdoor chuppah's.


The judge did however, state clearly that, "if there is no compliance from these parties and there is a continuation of just bending this order of the court, then I will entertain a motion to shut them down and to order monetary sanctions".


In June 2022, attorney's for Clayton cranked things up a notch by seeking to again shut down Lake Terrace. They filed a new motion, claiming that Lake Terrace has continued to violate the court orders by hosting events with so many people and cars that parking overflowed off-site. They also alleged that the condition of "no outdoor events" was violated after an outdoor chuppah was held in the street while police shut down the road.


As previously reported on FAA News (https://www.faanews.com/2022/07/update-judge-fines-lakewoods-lake.html), at the hearing held just recently on Friday July 8, attorneys for Lake Terrace and Greenwald Caterers downplayed the issues and beseeched the judge not to take a draconic move of shutting down their business because of "something that someone else did" saying that would bankrupt them. They also noted that Lake Terrace has just recently filed a new application to the Zoning Board to finally seek Use Variance relief for weddings and concerts. In response, attorneys for Clayton argued that Lake Terrace has "been there, done that" already and we can't trust that they will actually go forward with their application, as last year they withdrew their application without actually presenting it to the Board.


Judge Ford ultimately denied the motion to completely shut down Lake Terrace, but found them in violation of the court order, ordered them to pay a $5,000 sanction as well as legal fees incurred by Clayton as a result of filing their motion.


Judge Ford also warned that her permitting Lake Terrace to continue to operate with certain conditions was a "compromise" and that the owners of Lake Terrace have reciprocated by acting in "the ultimate lack of good faith" and therefore she is "one second away from revoking their Certificate of Occupancy" (which would shut them down completely).


It is only a mere couple of weeks since that hearing, and in fact, Judge Ford is yet to formally sign her written Order memorializing the July 8 hearing, and Clayton has already filed a new motion seeking to completely shut down Lake Terrace.


In their Motion to Enforce Litigants Rights, filed this Wednesday, attorneys for Clayton provided photos and videos from their surveillance camera footage showing that, just 2 days and 4 days after the July 8 hearing, Lake Terrace hosted events with parking overflowing onto both sides of Corporate Road West, creating a dangerous situation innthat a truck driving down the road was forced to drive extremely slowly and carefully to ensure it did not side swipe any vehicles. Clayton also claims that banquet hall patrons illegally parked in their property parking lots as well as at Bnos Brocho which is also a violation of the court order.


Toms River Attorney Robert C. Shea who represents Clayton Associates and Sudler Company who owns the property, notes in his motion filing that attorneys for Lake Terrace have previously told the judge that they already filed an application to the Zoning Board and that they will "seek to expedite their application", however, since then, we haven't seen any progress in getting the Zoning Board to hear this application any sooner.


Attorney Shea further argues in his motion filing that simply ordering monetary sanctions against Lake Terrace is insufficient as they just received a monetary sanction at the last hearing and yet, "here we are here again". As such, Mr. Shea's proposed order is that "any and all Certificates of Occupancy are hereby revoked;" and that the Defendants are to "immediately cease all activity on the property located at 1690 Oak Street until such time as they have received all requisite, non-appealable, approvals and complied with all conditions thereof".


Judge Ford is reviewing this motion request and she is expected to release a decision on Friday August 5. Attorneys for Lake Terrace have not yet responded to the motion. If they do respond, Judge Ford will likely hold oral arguments prior to issuing a decision on the matter.


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