Bagels by Jarrett popped up in West Orange in early 2020 and has since progressed a long way from just serving bagels. The popular shop has become known for owner Jarrett Seltzer’s many food creations, including tacos, burgers, wagyu hot dogs, fresh pasta and much more. Seriously, there isn’t an item served by Bagels by Jarrett (BxJ) that surprises me in the slightest anymore.
Besides the expansive menu, BxJ has another thing that sets them apart from other bagel shops and delis: They don’t offer in-store dining—or even entering the store at all, for that matter. Instead, BxJ operates on a curbside-pickup system entirely. This is because to maximize what they can serve, Seltzer has turned the entire space into a food operation—not just the kitchen. Think of the entire restaurant as the kitchen, you wouldn’t let customers wander by the stoves and fryers, would you?
To combat people unknowingly walking into the shop, Seltzer employs window shades. Moreover, the shades help to block the bright sunlight that infiltrates the shop during sunset and inhibits the staff’s work.
West Orange has made it clear to Seltzer that these shades go against town ordinance, which requires windows to be open at least two-thirds of the way. Mayor Susan McCartney first informed Seltzer of his ordinance violation last year and has since turned to a fine of $1,500 for every day Seltzer has the shades down. Which, Seltzer has made abundantly clear, will be every day.
Seltzer refuses to back down and is battling the issue in court. The first appearance accomplished very little as Seltzer and the town could not come to an agreement. Seltzer feels that the shades are trivial and the town, by focusing so much energy on it, is going against their duty to uplift small, local businesses.
On the flip side, McCartney feels they have already made enough exceptions and Seltzer has to learn to comply with this because, well, it’s the rule.
Seltzer has a different story, though. He tells me that the town’s statement that they have tried to work with him is untrue.
“I find it really interesting how the town’s position is that they have been trying to work with us… Yet every business has window shades,” Seltzer told me. “They sent us additional violations after we agreed to work it out in court; they wanted me to plead guilty and pay an undisclosed fine.”
Seltzer went on to tell me that the town of West Orange isn’t legally innocent either. “This is the town that withheld my Certificate of Occupancy illegally for 46 days without giving us any reason as to why. The ‘we tried to work with him’ is laughable.”
Besides, the ordinance cited by the West Orange Zoning Department states: “All screening of interiors, or shades, shall be maintained, clean and in a good state of repair.” Which, Seltzer is not in violation of.
West Orange is insistent that Seltzer violated the law, but Seltzer doesn’t seem so convinced, citing businesses all throughout town with shades on their windows. From the outside looking in, it looks a lot like harassment—or, at least that’s how fans of Bagels by Jarrett see it.
A lengthy court battle seems more likely by the day as Seltzer has made it known that he will not back down.
About the Author/s
Peter Candia is the Food + Drink Editor at New Jersey Digest. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Peter found a passion for writing midway through school and never looked back. He is a former line cook, server and bartender at top-rated restaurants in the tri-state area. In addition to food, Peter enjoys politics, music, sports and anything New Jersey.