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Silco Automatic Vending Co. v. Puma

Decided: February 5, 1970.

SILCO AUTOMATIC VENDING COMPANY, A NEW JERSEY CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
FRANK A. PUMA, LICENSE INSPECTOR, CENTRAL LICENSE BUREAU, CITY OF ELIZABETH AND THE MAYOR & CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF ELIZABETH, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS. DIERICKX MUSIC, INC., A NEW JERSEY CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF, V. FRANK A. PUMA, LICENSE INSPECTOR OF THE CITY OF ELIZABETH AND THE MAYOR & CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF ELIZABETH, DEFENDANTS



Sullivan, Carton and Halpern. The opinion of the court was delivered by Sullivan, P.J.A.D.

Sullivan

[108 NJSuper Page 429] These consolidated appeals are from a judgment of the Superior Court, Law Division, upholding the validity of ordinance No. 260 of the City of Elizabeth purporting to license and regulate pool and billiard

tables, bowling alleys, music machines (juke boxes) and other amusements and entertainment devices, and fixing the license fees to be paid.

Plaintiffs Dierickx Music, Inc. and Silco Automatic Vending Co. are New Jersey corporations engaged in the business of supplying coin-operated music machines and other amusement and entertainment devices. Both plaintiffs applied to defendant municipality for licenses under the ordinance to operate music machines. When licenses were not issued, the instant suits were filed seeking an adjudication that plaintiffs are entitled to licenses and also challenging the validity of the ordinance and particular sections thereof.

The facts are stipulated and are set forth in detail in the trial court's opinion reported at 105 N.J. Super. 72 (Law Div. 1969). They need not be repeated here.

Ordinance No. 260, which supplants an earlier licensing ordinance, provides that the license for the operation and maintenance of a music machine shall be issued in the name of the owner thereof. The ordinance appears to require two separate licenses, namely an operator's license as well as a license for each machine. Pertinent provisions of the ordinance are as follows:

Before a license is issued for any of the coin operated devices covered by this ordinance, the applicant for such license shall first apply for and obtain an operator's license, the fee for which shall be (a) in the case of music machines, the sum of Two Hundred ($200.00) Dollars per year for an operator licensing and operating more than one (1) music machine, and a fee of One Hundred ($100.00) Dollars for an operator licensing and operating only one (1) music machine * * *.

A fee of $10.00 for the operation of one music machine plus a fee of $5.00 for each of such machines in excess of one in the ownership of one licensed operator * * * shall be charged to operators for the issuance of a license for each such machine or coin operated device.

The number of music machines in the City of Elizabeth and all other amusement devices in which coins are inserted, shall be limited as follows: (a) in the case of music machines, licenses shall be issued for no more than two hundred fifty (250) machines * * *.

The ordinance provides that before issuing a license the license inspector shall "determine" from an investigative report prepared by the chief of police as to "the character, moral turpitude and fitness of the applicant." The ordinance contains no regulatory provisions affecting music machines except to prohibit the placement, operation and use of a machine within 250 feet of a church or school.

We agree with the trial court that a municipality may regulate the placement and operation of music machines under its police power. N.J.S.A. 40:48-1 and 2. Indeed, it is undisputed that the operation of juke boxes is widely regulated at the municipal level. See Annotation, "Validity, construction and application of statutory or municipal regulation of 'juke boxes' or other mechanical musical devices," 151 A.L.R. 1178 (1944). 7 McQuillin, Municipal Corporations (3d ed. 1968, rev. vol.), ยง 24.215.

We also agree that the license fees set out in the ordinance have not been shown to be unreasonable, confiscatory, or exorbitant. A municipality may derive some revenue from a licensing ordinance even though the purpose of the ordinance is to regulate ...


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