Dear Editor:

It’s no secret that New Jersey has some of the most archaic liquor license laws in the nation. Our liquor license laws (over 60 years old) are holding back our state economy and efforts to revitalize downtowns across our state. Utah is the only other state that has liquor license laws like New Jersey.  

The current liquor license formula caps liquor licenses based on a municipality’s population – one license per 3,000 residents. The limited number of licenses makes obtaining a license cost prohibitive, with licenses averaging $350,000 statewide but selling for over $1 million in some cases.

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Consumers today are seeking walkable downtowns to socialize and meet people. The key to addressing this demand is more restaurants with liquor licenses, which will support all downtown businesses by attracting and generating additional and constant foot traffic.

Shopping and retail has changed over the last few years but restaurants fill the void by serving as experience-based retail that people are searching for. Destination restaurants will attract additional businesses and therefore fewer vacancies in downtown districts and more mixed-use projects, leading to more tax ratables for municipalities. Expanding liquor licenses will boost our state’s economy and add an estimated $1 billion in local and state tax revenue and create over 15,000 new jobs.

Downtown New Jersey, the state’s premier advocacy organization for downtowns, recently put out an Op-Ed outlining the economic and equity case for reform. In addition, Downtown New Jersey is working to put together a Liquor License Reform Alliance to get the State Legislature to act on reforming our liquor license laws in order to enable New Jersey to better compete in the regional market.

Bipartisan legislation recently introduced in the State Legislature by State Senator Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth) and Assemblyman Brian Bergen (R-Morris) will reform our antiquated liquor license laws by creating a new affordable type of license that will allow more restaurants to serve non-spirit alcohol, like beer, wine, and cider. Current liquor license holders will be compensated for any perceived loss of value resulting from the creation of the new licenses through tax credits. This is the type of comprehensive reform legislation that we are hoping to advance.

Please share Downtown New Jersey’s Op-Ed on social media and with your networks to get the word out and learn more about joining the alliance for reform by clicking here. Together, we can revitalize our downtowns and create an economic boom that will make us the most competitive state in the region.

Tom Strowe

Board Member, Downtown New Jersey
Project Coordinator for Redevelopment, Scotch Plains