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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Small restaurants in Newark, New Jersey will be required to post an armed security guard on their premises at night under a new law approved by the city council.
The rule comes in the wake of a drive-by shooting in May at the Texas Fried Chicken and Pizza restaurant, where an off-duty Newark police officer was killed.
Under the ordinance, approved by the council unanimously on Thursday, restaurants that serve 15 or fewer people must hire an armed guard to stand watch after 9 p.m. Those unwilling to pay for a security guard must close by 10 p.m.
"If they want to stay open that late, they should provide security. If not, they should close," said Councilman Ras Baraka, who wrote the bill, in a telephone interview.
The ordinance might encourage business owners to upgrade their restaurants into the kind of "quality" establishments where people sit down for a meal and are less likely to attract loiterers than cheaper fast-food places, said Keith Hamilton, an aide to Baraka.
"These restaurants who serve 15 or less people, walk-in eateries where you get your food and you leave, they are havens for criminal activity," he said.
Jamil Nahiam, owner of the restaurant outside of which the May shooting took place, said he opposes the ordinance.
It places an expensive and unfair burden on small business owners to do something that should be the responsibility of the police, and the idea that Newark restaurants need armed guards would harm the city's image, he said.
"The ordinance is going to put us out of business. If that's what his intention was, I think he's going to succeed," Nahiam said in a telephone interview.
The shooting in May was the first such incident at his restaurant in some two decades of business, and it was unrealistic to expect him to turn his business into a sit-down dining establishment, he said.
"My location is right next to the hospital. The customers that come in are working-class people. They have 20 minutes, half an hour for lunch," he said.
Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Cynthia Johnston