SOUTH AMBOY – When John T. O’Leary was sworn in as the mayor of South Amboy in 1986, the city was known for its sea of unruly bars and venues for adult entertainment that attracted people from all over.
In his initial political campaign and subsequent ones, O’Leary vowed to finally rid South Amboy of every single adult business that did not fit with his vision of the city as a quiet, safe, family-friendly waterfront hamlet.
This week, city officials announced that the final adult nightclub in South Amboy will be closed, for good. “Over the past 24 years, we have worked within the laws of the State of New Jersey using every device at our disposal to have them conform to the legal uses or to weed out businesses that were inappropriate in South Amboy,” O’Leary said. “Through the commitment of elected leaders over the years, we have finally accomplished what we set out to achieve.”
On July 29, the city settled its lawsuit with S.A. Holding, LLC, which owns Delilah’s Den at 3630 Route 35 north.
“This business started out in South Amboy as a club use with a liquor license and ended up being an all-nude business, after giving up its license,” O’Leary said. “The city has fought this entity at every turn, from First Amendment challenges to bankruptcy court. We’re happy to finally be rid of this all-nude operation.”
In 2001, the owners of Delilah’s Den reached an agreement with the city to shut down the club. When the time came, however, the club owner, Joseph Shamy refused to close, claiming the city was in breach of its agreement because the city’s zoning restricted what he could build on the property.
The property is zoned for high commercial use such as medical offices or retail. The owners proposed a large number of housing units which would have required a change in zoning for the site. In addition, the proposed use would have increased traffic in an area already congested with traffic.
The city sued Shamy seeking to enforce the 2001 agreement to close, and a judge was preparing to rule on the case when Delilah’s Den filed for federal bankruptcy protection in 2005. The legal maneuver delayed proceedings because the bankruptcy court took jurisdiction of the case.
Under the agreement, all lawsuits are dismissed and the property can now be developed with a use that is permitted within the highway zone. A restaurant bar use would be permitted, but the nudity is gone, officials said.
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