Despite the high cost of living, many of us choose to remain in New Jersey and in our area because of our superior quality of life. However, for many residents that quality of life is likely to be compromised by legislation that has been approved by the Legislature allowing seasonal bars like D’Jais, the Parker House and Waypoint 622 to extend their operations beyond the normal summer season.
Monmouth County is the only county in the entire state that is home to bars which operate under a seasonal liquor license which allow them to be open from May 1 through November 14. Despite the fact that not one seasonal license exists outside of Monmouth County, legislation sponsored primarily by North Jersey lawmakers has cleared both the Senate and Assembly to allow these establishments to open on an additional 14 days throughout the year.
Not surprisingly, this measure has sparked intense criticism from residents and elected officials in communities like Brielle and Sea Girt, where residents have endured a litany of drunken misconduct from some patrons of these establishments. This behavior, which includes public urination, trespassing and drug possession, among many others, has a significant impact both on residents’ quality of life and on the municipal budgets which bear the additional costs associated with curbing these unruly antics.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this measure is that it completely strips local authority to approve or deny a liquor license. In fact, this measure takes the unprecedented step of removing the ability of the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) to authorize or reject a permit application — a stunning appropriation of the authority of the ABC which has regulated the alcoholic beverage industry since it was created in 1933 following the repeal of Prohibition. Put simply, each and every application to open and operate one of these bars outside of the normal seasonal period, despite the objection of local residents, elected officials and even the ABC director, must be approved.
Despite my vehement objections to enacting this bill, including my calls on the Assembly floor for amendments to maintain local and state control over the application process, this measure was approved and now heads to Gov. Murphy’s desk.
As such, I urge all local residents who will be affected by this proposal to contact Gov. Murphy to ask him to veto this measure. If the governor refuses to veto this bill, he should utilize a conditional veto to preserve the authority of the ABC to oversee the licensing of bars and ensure municipalities maintain the authority to safeguard their residents and their quality of life.
Assemblyman Edward H. “Ned” Thomson represents the 30th Legislative District, which includes Belmar and Lake Como.