RED BANK, NJ: Like to have a pop before, during or after your theater show?

Well, hoist up a glass, you might be able to.

In a bill that was signed into law on January 21, 2020, non-profit theaters with 50 or more seats may apply for a liquor license. 

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The thinking is that this will help these smaller venues have another revenue stream to support their budgets.

Formerly, a liquor license could only be applied for if a theater had seating for at least 1,000 audience members.

A Senate panel and the full Assembly approved a measure that would allow these small venues to have a “theater license” so long as their primary business is used for theatrical and/or musical productions and an admission fee is charged. 

Other caveats are that alcoholic beverages can be served only during the two hours immediately preceding performances, during performances, including intermission; during the two hours immediately following performances and for not more than 15 performances in a calendar year.

Two River Theater has been part of a group of theaters pushing forward the new law for many years.  We are thrilled the law is finally in effect and look forward to providing patrons the amenity of buying a drink at show – which is a common patron amenity in theaters around the country.  In addition, as a non-profit, we are always looking for new financial support for our activities.  The sale of alcoholic beverages will help provide much-needed funds to help support our mission of bringing great professional theater to the community,” said Michael Hurst, Managing Director.

The New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association is not supportive of the bill.  Marilou Halvorsen, president of NJRHA said to the lawmakers back in June, "You can put up 50 folding chairs and suddenly you're a theater.  There’s a great partnership between theaters and nearby restaurants, but this is just one more piece of legislation that devalues the liquor licenses currently held by the association's members.”

“There’s no good reason why we should give big theaters the ability to sell alcohol without giving select small, independent theaters that opportunity as well. Monmouth County especially is home to many small nonprofit theaters, many of whom are big contributors to our tourism industry and local commerce.  It’s important to make sure that we’re encouraging and supporting the arts at the Jersey Shore, which is why I was proud to co-sponsor this law last session,” said Senator Vin Gopal.

Danny Murphy of Murphy’s Steakhouse, Murphy, a restaurateur for over fifty years, said, “I don’t think it’s fair to the bars and restaurants in Red Bank that they’ll be open 2 hours before and 2 hours after a show.  You’re setting up another full-blown liquor license in the town.  Who’s going to monitor (the time limit)?  Not the ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control).  I haven’t seen an ABC agent in twenty years.  They (patrons) can sit there till 12 midnight after a show.  No one’s going to be monitoring.  The next thing they’ll be doing is ordering in food.  The whole thing is a nightmare as far as I’m concerned.”

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