Neighbors Sounded Alarm on Toms River Hookah Lounge to Officials Weeks Before Shooting

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TOMS RIVER, NJ – In recent month, neighboring businesses and residents complained formally with the township of Toms River regarding activity at the Top Tier Hookah Lounge in Toms River.

According to accounts given by neighbors to Shore News Network, community members complained about the large crowds, alcohol-related violations and other quality of life concerns weeks before one person was killed and two others shot at the business Friday night.

Residents went to Toms River Mayor Maurice Hill and lodged informal complaints with Hill’s office.

According to the Toms River Police Department, those complaints were turned over to the code enforcement department and police department to be handled accordingly.

Toms River Police Department Detective Stallworth had taken the lead as the department’s liaison with the community to investigate the violations.

Toms River Police Department spokeswoman Jill Messina today said the department was in the process of investigating the business before the shooting took place.

“Detective Stallworth was our lead detective investigating the Hookah Lounge violations that were received by the mayor’s office,” Messina said. “As a result of Detective Stallworth’s persistence in organizing Quality of Life Task Force meetings, the owner of the lounge was cited with an official complaint for offenses observed with three alcohol-related violations and also served multiple violations from the township for building/zoning type issues.”

The business owner, the township said, said to comply with those citations and did not attend meetings with township officials to work out a solution.

“As a result of the owner’s actions, the situation continued disregarding meetings with our township officials, and complaints signed against her. The police department and township officials have worked diligently to force the business to comply with state law and local ordinances,” Messina added.

Complaints were made to the ABC regarding the illegal mixing of hard alcohol at the business, which does not have a liquor license. The ABC did not investigate. According to a source close to the investigation, the ABC has no jurisdiction to control matters of unlicensed businesses, saying if no license exists, the legal matter would be the responsibility of the local government and police department to enforce the laws being violated.

“It’s almost as if they were operating an illegal nightclub out of a small single unit retail space over there,” one neighboring business owner said today, asking to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal.

We reached out this weekend to Art Gallagher, Mayor Hill’s press secretary, but did not receive a response or call back.

On Friday, three people were shot and one was killed in a shooting at the business.

Police in Toms River continues investigating a triple shooting that claimed the life of a 29-year-old Toms River man early Saturday morning.

The shooting took place outside the Top Tier Hookah Lounge located on Hooper Avenue in the Silverton section of the city,

Police did not reveal the events leading up to the shooting nor provide an identity of the gunmen involved in the murder, which the department hinted was a targeted shooting. At this time, there are no suspects in custody, but the Toms River Police Department says there are no further threats posed to the community in relation to this shooting.

According to police one gunshot victim remains in critical condition at this time. A third victim was treated and released.

“At approximately 1:20 a.m. this morning, Officers from Toms River Township Police Department responded to 1723 Hooper Avenue for a report of gunshots fired. Responding Officers found three victims suffering from gunshot wounds. A twenty-nine-year-old male was transported to Community Medical Center in Toms River and was pronounced deceased. The two other victims were transported to Monmouth County for medical attention. A twenty-nine-year-old male victim is currently in critical but stable condition. A twenty-five-year-old male victim was treated for his injuries and released,” the Toms River Police Department said in a joint statement today with the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.

The lounge recently moved north a few blocks this year from its former location near McIntyre’s Pub just south of its current location on the 1700 block of Hooper Avenue.

Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer and Toms River Township Chief of Police Mitch Little announced that the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crime Unit, Toms River Township Police Department and Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit are currently investigating a homicide that occurred at approximately 1:20 a.m. on August 27, 2022 in Toms River.

There is no known danger to the public at this time, according to Toms River Police Chief Mitch Little.

According to witnesses, at the time of the shooting, the entire lot of the plaza was full of cars, with several patrons’ vehicles parked on Hooper Avenue and in a nearby parking lot. Witnesses told Shore News Network today that the suspects were identified as Hispanic males who fled the scene in a silver vehicle.

Anyone with information regarding this investigation should contact Detective Denis Mitchell of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office at 732-929-2027 or Detective Jennifer Grob of the Toms River Township Police Department at 732-349-0150