City Business Administrator George Savastano addresses the Chamber of Commerce while City Councilman J.B. Feeley listens.


Sea Isle City’s new 10 p.m. curfew and backpack ban are relatively “benign” laws that will help police prevent rowdy groups of teenagers from disrupting the summer tourism season, a top official assured the local business community Tuesday.

City Business Administrator George Savastano said the new laws will not discourage other visitors from coming to Sea Isle. The city will enthusiastically welcome the tens of thousands of vacationers who typically visit the beach resort each summer – except for the troublemakers, he noted.

“If you don’t want to behave, this isn’t the place for you,” Savastano said in remarks to the Sea Isle City Chamber of Commerce and Revitalization.

Savastano emphasized that the vast majority of Sea Isle’s teenage visitors are well-behaved kids just looking to have a good time during their summer vacation.

“As with anything, it’s a very small percentage that cause problems,” he said.

The new curfew and backpack ban are simply new laws that give police the “tools” to prevent large groups of unruly teens from gathering on the beaches and Sea Isle’s oceanfront Promenade, he said.

“It’s really benign. Part of the reason it’s benign is that we are bound by state law,” Savastano said of how Sea Isle’s curfew and backpack ordinances will not violate New Jersey statutes.

Savastano told the Chamber of Commerce members during a meeting Tuesday that City Council approved the new curfew and backpack ban in response to an overwhelming number of complaints from the community about disruptive teens and young adults.

At the same time, he repeatedly stressed that the last thing Sea Isle wants to become known as is a “police state.”

“The police have been doing this for a long time,” he said. “They don’t want a police state. They don’t want conflict. They just want them to behave.”

Sea Isle’s oceanfront Promenade is a popular spot at night for teenagers and young adults during the summer tourism season.

The Chamber of Commerce invited Savastano to its meeting at Mike’s Seafood & Dock Restaurant to explain the curfew and backpack ban in more detail and how the new ordinances might affect the upcoming summer tourism season.

Holding up copies of both ordinances, Savastano said the laws were carefully researched and written by Sea Isle’s solicitor to ensure they would not violate the constitutional rights of adults or juveniles.

For the curfew, minors under the age of 18 generally will not be allowed out on the beaches, Promenade and the street ends on beach blocks from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

However, there will be exceptions for minors who are accompanied by adults, are going to or returning from their summer jobs or are participating in formal activities such as recreation programs.

Savastano explained that police will give juveniles at least two warnings to go home if they are out after curfew without a legitimate reason. Only if the juveniles ignore repeated warnings will police have the authority to take them into custody and call their parents.

“If there’s a problem, it gives police a tool to approach the juveniles and ask them, ‘What’s your business here, how old are you?’” Savastano said.

Juveniles will not be arrested or given a summons for violating the curfew. Instead, police will detain them in a process known as a “stationhouse adjustment” – essentially keeping them in custody until their parents or legal guardians pick them up.

Meanwhile, the backpack ban will be in effect from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. each night between Memorial Day and Labor Day and will apply to both juveniles and adults. It is designed to prevent anyone from using backpacks at night to hide alcoholic beverages, weapons or other contraband.

There are exceptions in the backpack ban for police officers, fishermen out on the beach, equipment used by journalists and people carrying medical devices.

Savastano said police will not question adults who may be carrying backpacks after hours if the circumstances are obvious. He used the example of a mother carrying a backpack at the same time she is pushing a baby stroller.

A police substation like this one will be used this summer at 40th Street and the Promenade to hold juveniles in custody until their parents pick them up.

Adults and juveniles will receive verbal warnings if they violate the backpack ban. After repeated warnings, police officers will have the discretion to take stronger action.

For adults, that may mean they could be slapped with fines ranging from $25 to $100 for carrying backpacks after hours.

Juveniles, on the other hand, may be taken to a police substation, where they will wait until their parents or legal guardians come to pick them up. Police are planning to place a new substation at 40th Street and the Promenade over the summer.

No backpacks will be searched or confiscated, city officials said.

During the last two summers, Sea Isle and other New Jersey beach towns have been dealing with an outburst of underage drinking, vandalism, theft and other crimes committed by juveniles or young adults.

Sea Isle officials are toughening their local ordinances after repeatedly expressing frustration with state laws that place limits on police in dealing with troublemaking juveniles. For instance, under state law police may only give “curbside warnings” to teens who are drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana in public.

John Fee, vice president of the Chamber of Commerce, asked Savastano why city officials decided to impose a 10 p.m. curfew on juveniles instead of 11 p.m.

Savastano explained that most of Sea Isle’s lineup of family-friendly nighttime activities during the summer end around 10 p.m. They include concerts, movies and family nights in Excursion Park.

City Council President Mary Tighe, who attended the Chamber meeting along with Councilman J.B. Feeley, pointed out that most businesses on the Promenade close at 10 p.m., so it is appropriate to have a juvenile curfew that begins at that time.

“I’m up there at 10 o’clock at night. It’s not pretty,” Tighe said of groups of rowdy teenagers congregating on the Promenade.

Members of the Chamber of Commerce listen to City Business Administrator George Savastano’s remarks during their meeting at Mike’s Seafood & Dock Restaurant.

Amy Glancey, owner of the Ludlam Hotel and other local businesses with her husband, Chris, questioned whether the city plans to have a public relations campaign to let visitors know that Sea Isle will not be heavy-handed with its local laws.

“I think there’s a lot of negative chatter about the town not being open to teens,” Glancey said.

Savastano told Glancey that the city will indeed launch a public relations campaign to provide more details about the curfew and backpack ban so that visitors won’t think the laws are too harsh.

“One of the things we don’t want people to think is that we’re a police state,” he said. “The thing is to make sure that the right headlines get out there.”

Mike Monichetti, owner of Mike’s Seafood & Dock Restaurant, commended Mayor Leonard Desiderio’s administration and other city officials for working in partnership with the local business community to promote tourism to Sea Isle.

“I don’t think we could have grown without the cooperation of the city and the administration,” Monichetti said. “You give us the foundation to build off of and to get the people here.”