TOMS RIVER, NJ – Toms River officials have shut down the Top Tier Hookah Lounge in Silverton after a deadly shooting that killed one and injured two others Friday night. According to township records, the business had been the site of multiple zoning and alcohol-related violations over the past two months. Those violations included serving mixed drinks to customers without a liquor license and operating the business as a quasi-nightclub out of compliance with the venue’s intended and approved use as a hookah lounge.
Complaints from local businesses over the past two months were not enough for Toms River Mayor Maurice Hill to take more drastic action prior to Friday night’s shooting. The lounge originally operated in Anchorage Square, a couple blocks south where it opened to fanfare, including a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by Hill and Township Council President Kevin Geoghegan.
The business eventually relocated north after alleged quality of life complaints during their time as a tenant in Anchorage Square.
On Monday, after the deadly shooting took place, Toms River officials revoked the Certificate of Occupancy of Top Tier Hookah for multiple zoning, safety and code violations, according to Art Gallagher, Mo Hill’s press secretary, who previously served as a campaign manager for Hill’s political election campaign.
“This business has been under investigation by our Quality of Life Task Force due to multiple complaints,” Mayor Hill said, in statement prepared by Gallagher, two months after local community members and nearby business owners began lodging complaints. “The Task Force found several violations and instructed the business owners to bring the establishment into compliance. Those instructions were ignored. The investigation into Saturday’s shooting confirmed that the business owners were operating in violation of their approved status as a retail-only establishment and likely made false or misleading statements on their zoning application. As a result their Certificate of Occupancy has been revoked today and they are no longer permitted to operate or do business at 1783 Hooper Ave in the Silverton section of the Township.”
Shore News Network reached out to Hill several times regarding the mayor’s inaction in the matter, but those calls went unanswered.
“In addition to being shut down, the business owner and property owner have been issued a fine of $4500 and a summons which is answerable in Toms River Municipal Court on September 12,” Gallagher, who earns over $90,000 per year, said in a press release on Monday.