New Jersey pushes archaic liquor laws forward

In many ways, New Jersey is one of the most progressive states in the country. Time and time again, jersey proves it’s keeping up with the current times in many ways. But one area where New Jersey’s appeal to progress seems to be hitting a wall is in the restaurant industry.

Today, New Jersey is one of the most difficult states for restaurateurs to obtain a liquor license. This gave birth to Jersey’s unique food culture. BYO restaurant Choose from Some towns, like Rutherford, New Jersey, do not issue liquor licenses to restaurants at all.

This is generally not a big deal. BYO restaurants are fun to eat and drink to your taste and price. On the contrary, these restaurants are missing out on a major revenue stream. Alcohol is more profitable than food. Generally, a reasonable food cost for a restaurant is 28-35%. That means that if a restaurant sold 100 of his meals worth of food, it would cost $28 to $35 to make it. For liquor, this figure drops to 15-20%. Alcohol is profitable. More profits mean more money going into New Jersey’s economy. Expanding the liquor license is beneficial to New Jersey as a whole.

statement issued by Governor Phil Murphy’s office read:

Expanding liquor consumption licenses in New Jersey could increase sales for both existing restaurants and new restaurants opening due to increased availability of licenses. The New Jersey Economic Development Authority estimates that reforming New Jersey’s liquor licensing system could create up to $10 billion in new economic activity over 10 years and create more than 10,000 jobs annually. . In addition, expansion of liquor licenses under this framework has the potential to generate significant new state and local revenues that can be reinvested in new economic development efforts.

But why is it so difficult to obtain a license in the first place?

old liquor laws

The law that banned it in the United States was stuck in the Garden State for a little longer. Since 1948, New Jersey has capped the number of liquor licenses that can be issued by local governments. The method of issuing liquor licenses is population-based. The city can issue one consumption license (bar/restaurant) for every 3,000 residents and the town can issue one retail license (liquor store) for every 7,500 of her inhabitants. In towns with less than her 7,500 inhabitants, he can issue one license of each kind of retail and consumption.

These licenses are issued at what we consider to be “normal” prices. Limited availability, combined with the fact that licenses can be sold privately on the market, has driven prices skyrocketing. It is estimated that her over 7,000 restaurateurs in New Jersey paid him over $1 million for the license.

Additionally, liquor licenses marketed in an auction style means that chain restaurants and conglomerates will always be able to get more licenses than small business owners.

Issue progress

so director The article, released by Ehren Ryan, Executive Chef/Owner of Millburn’s Common Lot, reveals the acclaimed chef is working with Gov. Murphy to fix New Jersey’s outdated liquor laws. rice field. Here are some of his statements:

“I am extremely honored to be invited to Gov. Murphy’s 2023 state address as his personal guest…

… Gov. Murphy outlines plans to overhaul existing liquor licensing laws through expansion, ensuring the creation of a modernized and fair compensation package for existing license holders. “

Over the past few years, Ryan has worked with New Jersey Senator Bin Gopal to create a system that not only makes liquor licenses more accessible and affordable, but also supports current license holders who have paid too much. has drafted legislation to provide for their license. The system will include a means-tested tax credit for current license holders affected by the expansion. About six months ago, Governor Murphy joined the fight against Ryan and Gopal to get this done.

When contacted, Ryan provided me with further clarification:

“New Jersey legislators need to act. It’s time to modernize outdated laws and modernize New Jersey. What is being proposed is fair and responsible. Compensate current license holders.” It eased quotas, restrictive laws that hampered the operation of the craft beer industry and local distilleries and vineyards.

This isn’t just a BYOB issue, it’s an issue for the hospitality industry as a whole,” he told me.


Tommy Boater, director of operations for Biaggio in Wayne and Osteria Crescendo in Westwood, has expressed his feelings on the matter.

“It increases our value [Osteria Crescendo] Your license will be greatly reduced. I hope the state does the right thing with it,” a voter explained to me.

How the draft bill stands now will resolve voter concerns. It is only a matter of time if it is translated in a way that benefits all restaurateurs.

how to help

Time is of the essence in this matter. The best you can do as a concerned citizen is to reach out to your representatives and urge them to move forward on this longstanding concern.

look for lawmakers

Contact Governor Murphy

Contact Senator Booker

Contact Senator Menendez

About the author

Peter Candia is the Food + Drink Editor for New Jersey Digest. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Peter discovered his passion for journalism midway through his schooling and never looked back. He has worked as a cook, server and bartender at top restaurants in his Tri-State area. Peter never stops learning and he is always in the weeds.

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