POINT PLEASANT BEACH, N.J. (AP) — A plan by this Jersey shore town to force bars to pay an extra fee if they want to remain open until 2 a.m. appears to be illegal, according to New Jersey’s Department of Community Affairs.

Richard Constable III, the department’s acting commissioner, wrote to Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Vincent Barrella on Monday, saying the proposal runs afoul of stated law. In particular, he wrote, the proposal to charge an extra fee of $60 per person, based on a bar’s licensed occupancy, goes well beyond the level of annual increases a town can impose on a liquor license.

“The borough appears to be undertaking an unlawful effort to institute a fee that it has no power to institute,” he wrote.

The letter was first reported by Point Pleasant Patch.com.

The additional fees would help pay for more police patrols to address quality-of-life issues in residential neighborhoods, where some residents blame rowdy bar patrons returning to their cars in the early morning hours with screaming, fighting and damaging property.

Two companies that own the four boardwalk bars, Jenkinson’s Boardwalk and Martell’s Tiki Bar, have offered to pay $800,000 toward the additional patrols. That offer remains on the table, despite the Community Affairs letter, Jenkinson’s spokeswoman Marilou Halvorsen said Tuesday afternoon.

“We really want to resolve this,” she said. “That’s been our stance all along.”

Jenkinson’s is Point Pleasant Beach’s largest employer, providing about 1,500 jobs at the height of the summer season. It also is the largest taxpayer, with property taxes approaching $1 million per year.

The borough council is scheduled to vote on the bar closing ordinances at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Earlier this year, Point Pleasant Beach took another step aimed at cracking down on early morning disruptions in neighborhoods near the beach bars by passing an ordinance prohibiting non-resident parking on certain streets between midnight and 6 a.m. The boardwalk bars are suing to block that law from taking effect in July.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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