Among some of the most restrictive and complicated liquor laws in the U.S., New Jersey’s old-fashioned regulations date back many decades. The history of alcohol laws in NJ baffles visitors from other parts of the nation, and the rules are considered frustratingly repressive to many who live in the Garden State. But why do they remain unchanged for so many years?
Home Rule Policy Complicates Alcohol Laws in NJ
In the state of New Jersey, each borough, municipality, city, and town has its own respective set of public services, school systems, and liquor laws. This “home rule” policy applies to each of the state’s 567 municipalities. This large number of small districts keeps local economies small.
Even though town residents and governing bodies have shown interest in merging several towns into larger cities, politicians have avoided making the moves to do so. Consolidation of smaller towns into larger cities could make getting needed votes more difficult.
Dry Towns in New Jersey
Each of these small communities has its own policy regarding the sale and use of alcohol. The size of the population determines the number of retail liquor licenses allowed within the city or town limits.
The influence of prohibition, as well as religious groups like the Quakers and Puritans, lingers on in a few parts of New Jersey. Some towns are completely “dry,” meaning no alcohol at all is permitted to be sold. In the other cities, liquor licenses may be extremely costly and not easy to obtain. The list of dry towns in New Jersey includes:
- Port Republic
- Saddle River
- Audubon Park
- Haddon Heights
- Ocean City
- Cape May Point
- Wildwood Crest
- Downe Township
- Lawrence Township
- Maurice River Township
- Stow Creek Township
- Upper Deerfield
- Elc Township
- South Harrison
- Island Heights
- Prospect Park
- Lower Alloways Creek Township
- Oldmans Township
- Quinton Township
- Upper Pittsgrove
- Far Hills
Make a Reservation for NJ Restaurants with Liquor Licenses
There might be long lines to get into the few restaurants where you can have a cocktail with your dinner in New Jersey. Back in 1969, the State established the law that limited one liquor license per bar or restaurant for every 3,000 residents in a town. This rule makes it difficult to find a restaurant where you can have a glass of wine with dinner in some areas.
Even though demographics in the state have transformed dramatically since the 1960s, the very restrictive law remains.
Inconvenient Stores – No Alcohol in NJ Supermarkets
Laws for retail sales of alcohol in NJ are also antiquated. Just one liquor sales license is allowed for every 7,500 residents in the state. Corporations only get two retail distribution licenses for alcohol sales, which can be a headache for large chains like ShopRite with over 100 stores around the state.
Residents of New Jersey don’t enjoy the simplicity of choosing a bottle of wine while shopping for dinner or grabbing a six-pack of beer with the snacks for the big game. Convenience stores or grocery stores cannot sell beer and wine due to a law imposed in 1962 which capped liquor licensing for supermarkets. The law’s purpose was to protect small, privately owned corner store types of businesses from falling victim to organized crime practices and price fixing.
Alcohol Laws in NJ are Bad for Most, Good for Some
Of course, it stands to reason that most of those who are lucky enough to have these rare liquor licenses have no interest in seeing the laws change. After all, being the only establishment able to sell alcohol to thousands of people legally is good for business.
Businesses who hold liquor licenses but don’t use them tend to sit on them, rather than give them up. That practice keeps the price high, making it increasingly difficult for others to get into the liquor sales arena. In fact, the Cheesecake Factory paid as much as $2.3 million for a liquor license in Short Hills, New Jersey.
As they stand, the liquor laws are a roadblock for large corporate chains from establishing a foothold in the area. Keeping them out is good for smaller businesses; however, it does hold back job growth in the retail sector.
Prices of alcohol remain high for consumers due to the lack of competition, as well. The fight against high prices isn’t enough to bring about change in the alcohol laws in NJ yet, though. The smaller townships seem to agree that the behavioral issues and health risks associated with alcohol use are detrimental to their communities.
The regulations, as they stand, don’t look to be changing anytime soon, even though the region could see an increase of $12.6 million in wages with some 275 jobs created if supermarkets were okayed to sell liquor and beer.
If you have questions regarding the alcohol laws in NJ or need help with a DUI offense, contact the Law Offices of Douglas Herring. Call today at (609) 321-8060 for a free consultation.