League Executive Board Member Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle, chair of the League's Liquor License Task Force, testified before the Assembly Oversight Committee on Monday, March 20 on liquor license reform. Mayor Brindle emphasized that the current liquor license laws are outdated and hinder economic development and revitalization, particularly in downtown areas. Mayor Brindle reinforced the League’s position that municipalities should maintain oversight of liquor licenses because they are in the best position to understand local sentiment toward alcoholic beverage sales and consumption. She also pointed out that the population caps on the issuance of liquor licenses have remained unchanged for 75 years, despite changes in society's attitudes and New Jersey's landscape, and that there needs to be proper reform around the population cap to allow small municipalities access to liquor licenses.
Mayor Brindle noted that reforming liquor license laws could help generate additional foot traffic, extend business hours, and provide opportunities for small businesses in municipalities. She also remarked that the current licensing structure has created license affordability inequity and limits municipal economic development strategies. She added the observation that revisions to the population cap for liquor licenses are necessary to address the unintended consequence of limited availability in some municipalities and excess availability in others.
Economic development and revitalization, especially in downtown areas, has been a priority of municipalities all over the state, but because of the current New Jersey's liquor license policies, economic framework, and high cost of doing business, there are limited opportunities available for New Jersey residents, business, and business prospects to compete with neighboring states who have a more flexible statutory framework that favors economic development.
When New Jersey legalized cannabis in November 2020, it made it clear that the State was ready to move into the future with progressive regulatory reform. The State's decision to legalize cannabis, endorsed by a statewide ballot vote, shed light on New Jersey's antiquated liquor license laws, as well as the different approaches to licensing and regulation between the two regulated industries.
Contact: Andrew LaFevre, Legislative Analyst, email@example.com, 609-695-3481 x. 116