CRANFORD - Momentum is growing around a proposal from Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester, to let restaurants purchase much cheaper permits to serve alcohol.
Currently, towns can create one license per 3,000-population. Many of the best restaurants in New Jersey don’t have a liquor license, but rather are bring-your-own-bottles (BYOBs). Liquor licenses in New Jersey sell on average for over $300,000.
Burzichelli, the Democratic assemblyman, has led the push for reform with a bill, A-3494, that would allow certain restaurants to purchase permits to serve alcohol at a cost ranging from $1,500 to $10,000, depending mostly on square footage. In its current form, the bill does not limit the number of permits or where they could be issued. These permits do not allow the establishment to have a bar but rather provide alcohol via table service.
"The people that came and spoke on behalf of this license were from towns that many don't have a traditional downtown like Cranford," said O'Connor. "Many of their liquor licenses are on strip malls and highways. So in order to build their downtown, they are trying to attract developers to come in and do redevelopment and again, since there are no liquor licenses available, use this mechanism in order to provide that type of service in a restaurant."
"When I heard the proposal, I looked at Cranford," added O'Connor. "We have the number one downtown in New Jersey that has I believe seven liquor licenses currently active in the bar/restaurants in town. There are a number of highly successful bring-your-own establishments in town, and I know that from what people tell me, the price point to eat there is one of the draws. Obviously once you started getting liquor as part of the service, that price point is going to increase."
"Quite frankly, it doesn't seem to me that it's necessary in Cranford because we are so successful at what we do in the dining industry. So, I'm just putting it on the table because it's something we definitely need to address. It's going through the legislature, and we need to be ready for it."
These permits, currently referred to as R-licenses, are not expected to be forced upon towns but will be optional. With the amount of development currently going on and scheduled for Cranford, there is expected to be a big push for these new liquor licenses from developers.