TRENTON, NJ — Seasonal liquor license holders can sell alcoholic beverages all year long until next January, under legislation signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy.
The temporary extension through January 14, 2022 is seen as a move to keep help these establishments stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth), a bill co-sponsor. Typically, seasonal retail consumption license holders are permitted to sell liquor only from May 1 through November 14.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the restaurant industry. Businesses that would usually make a major profit during the summer with their liquor licenses have been hit especially hard. Gov. Murphy signing this bill into law will certainly assist the restaurants that have been struggling,” Gopal said in a statement.
In the 30th District, which includes Belmar and Lake Como, Sen. Robert Singer (R-Monmouth/Ocean) voted in favor of the extension, while Assemblymen Sean Kean (R-Monmouth/Ocean) and Edward “Ned” Thompson (R-Monmouth/Ocean) voted against the measure.
In Belmar, the only establishment with an active seasonal retail consumption license is D’Jais Bar & Grill on Ocean Avenue. While currently closed during the offseason, it is planning for a “normal spring operation as of now,” while management is watching COVID-19 guidelines for indoor and outdoor dining, said John Bonevich, its marketing manager.
In addition, outdoor expansion-of-premises permits, which are set to expire in March, will need to be extended before an opening decision can be made, he said.
While the popular bar traditionally reopens in early May, it got off to a delayed rocky start last summer when limited outdoor dining began on June 15 due to the coronavirus and patrons were singled out by Gov. Phil Murphy for “knucklehead behavior” after several videos went viral on social media showing overcrowding by those not social distancing or wearing masks.
It triggered bar management to beef up enforcement of COVID-19 rules, including placing signage in all outdoor areas used for dining and drinking with socially distant seating and capacity restrictions (see photo above).