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Beach Unveils Sweeping Reforms To State’s Outdated, Byzantine Liquor Laws

Senator James Beach waits to be called up and sworn-in as the new Senator for the 6th District.

Measures Would Allow Portability of Licenses Across Municipalities, Create New Class of Licenses Specifically for Restaurants

Senator Jim Beach has introduced a five-bill legislative package aimed at ushering in the most sweeping reform of New Jersey’s 60-year-old liquor license laws.

Among the bills are measures to permit unused liquor licenses to be sold across municipal lines and create a new class of liquor licenses for specific use by restaurants.

“New Jersey’s hospitality industry is straining to meet the needs of patrons in 2010, yet our liquor laws are mired in the 1940’s,” said Beach (D-Camden). “Just because our liquor laws have been relative untouched in sixty years doesn’t mean we should just leave them be. This reform package will bring our laws up-to-date, and provide businesses greater flexibility to meet the needs of their customers.”

Two bills would make-up for the shortage of licenses in some municipalities by allowing another municipality to purchase at fair market value an unused liquor licenses from another town. One of the bills would allow for a vacant license to be sold to a contiguous community within the same county (S-1905); the companion bill (S-1906) would take that concept even further by allowing such inter-municipality sales between any two communities in the state. Under both measures, the transfer of a license would require approval from the governing bodies of both the selling and purchasing municipalities.

Another bill (S-1903) would create a new class of restricted alcoholic beverage licenses solely for restaurants that wish to sell beer and wine. The license would permit beverage sales in conjunction with food service at tables, and only for in-restaurant consumption. Fees for a restricted restaurant license would be fixed at 75 percent of the fee for a plenary retail consumption license in the municipality in which the restaurant is hosted.

“Some communities have bustling downtowns with numerous establishments that crave a liquor license but are blocked because none are available, while other towns have liquor licenses to spare,” said Beach. “We should allow these communities to come together to create a marketplace for these surplus licenses.”

Another bill (S-1903) would allow more grocery stores to sell alcoholic beverages by gradually expanding the number of allowable retail licenses any one person or corporate entity can hold from two to ten. The final bill in the Beach package would create a limited religious retail distribution license (S-1907) to allow the sale of beverages that have been prepared under sanctioned religious requirements at food stores operated under religious supervision.

“New Jersey’s liquor laws are a remnant from the post-Prohibition era when price gouging was rampant, organized crime still ran distribution and ‘mom and pop’ groceries dotted every street corner,” said Beach. “New Jersey is a far different place today. We need to be open to the needs of businesses and municipalities for flexibility and common sense in the law.”

The bills have been referred to the Senate Law & Public Safety committee for consideration.