Mayor Dawn Zimmer announced Tuesday that a fund will be set up to help pay the costs of the St. Patrick's Day Parade and put some of the burden into the hands of local business owners.
The mayor said that contributions will be based on a "good faith effort," and should account for roughly half of the $100,000 the parade will cost the city.
"I'm sure you're not going to be happy about what I'm going to ask from you," Zimmer told the roughly 50 bar and restaurant owners on Tuesday afternoon in a meeting room in City Hall.
But, she pleaded, "I need your help."
The mayor and Hoboken Police Chief Anthony Falco said that they do not want to see a repeat of last year's chaotic parade. The police received 600 calls that day, Falco said.
"I'm not going to go cheap, quite frankly, like they did last year," said Zimmer, who was sworn in as mayor on November 6, 2009.
The city already announced that the fines that will be given out to those who break the rules on March 6 can go up to $2,000. Fines are meant as a deterrent, the mayor said, not as a way to fund the parade.
The city's costs are made up of overtime to police officers (between $85,000 and $95,000) as well as overtime paid to other city workers, such as firefighters, sanitation workers and parking officers.
On the day of the parade, the city sees about $20,000 in revenue, which is completely made up of parking, said Director of Parking Utility Ian Sacs.
The bar owners in the room were skeptical, and expressed their worries that the same people will end up paying for the parade, and that those who did not attend this meeting will benefit from the revenues, without paying up.
"How do you make it a fair system?" asked Eugene Flinn, owner of Amanda's Restaurant and Elysian Cafe, both on Washington Street. "You just have one piece of the puzzle in this room."
Mike Gallucci, owner of Green Rock Tap and Grill, proposed that bars open earlier that day, in order to keep people off the streets. Zimmer and Falco seemed to like the idea of bars opening at 9 a.m., but no consensus could be reached about the closing time of the bars, which Zimmer proposed to be 1 a.m.
Convincing bar owners in Hoboken to donate money to their government may also be a challenge, with a lot of people still vividly remembering this summer's corruption sting.
"I recognize there's a complete lack of trust," Zimmer said. "But I give you my word."
The mayor made sure to show how serious she is about the issue. "If we don't see a good faith effort within two months after St. Patrick's Day," she said, "we're going to have to cancel next year."
Director of Public Safety Angel Alicea came out of the meeting, feeling hopeful and optimistic.
"I've been to this event ever since I was a little boy," he said about the parade. "It's a family event, and I'd like to keep it that way."
Alicea called last year's parade "very chaotic" and "unsafe."
Multiple council members and the Chairman of the Quality of Life sub-committee Nino Giacchi were also present at the meeting.
Zimmer also expressed her personal biggest fear: a fatality on the day of the parade.
"If we fail one more year, this is done," Zimmer said. "It will be done."