Liquor Licenses in New Jersey

There are several types of liquor licenses in the state of New Jersey.  For retail real estate, there are two primary types: 1) Plenary Retail Consumption License for Restaurants, and 2) Plenary Retail Distribution License for Liquor Stores.  Currently, these two types of licenses are administered by individual municipalities. N.J.S.A. 33:1-12.14, sets forth municipal license limits to one (1) Plenary Retail Consumption License for every 3,000 residents and one (1) Plenary Retail Distribution License for every 7,500 residents. In 2020, New Jersey legislators introduced two identical bills, House Bill A4925 and Senate Bill S2964 to broaden liquor licensing to allow restaurants to obtain a limited license to serve beer, wine, and cider at dining tables (not at a bar).  Both bills are in committee for review.  The bills were introduced to address the high cost and limited number of liquor licenses in New Jersey that impede real estate development and restaurant expansion on “Main Street”.

Following is a list of existing and pending liquor licenses in New Jersey:

NJ RETAIL LIQUOR LICENSES (CLASS “C”)

Retail liquor licenses (Class C) are issued by each municipality in which the business is located, and all applications, renewals, and transfers of these liquor licenses are for the most part, administered by the municipality. As set forth in N.J.S.A. 33:1-12, Class C retail liquor licenses include:

License TypeLicense CodeApplies toAvailability
Plenary Transit License13Plenary Transit License permits the license holder to sell alcoholic beverages in open containers for immediate consumption on trains, airplanes, boats and in limousines.NOTE – NOT ADMINISTERED BY A MUNICIPALITY License is issued by the Director of the State of New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
The difference between this license and the standard Plenary Retail Consumption License is that the packaged goods can be sold from a portion of the property which is not the public barroom.
Club License31Club Licenses are issued to non-profit corporations and authorize the license holder to sell and serve alcoholic beverages for consumption on the licensed premises by club members and up to nine guests of any club member. For on-premise “fundraising events”, the club must obtain a Social Affair PermitThrough application to the Municipality (not limited by Municipality license ratio.
Plenary Retail Consumption License with “Broad Package Privilege”32The difference between this license and the standard Plenary Retail Consumption License is that the packaged goods can be sold from a portion of the property which is not the public barroom.?Through application to the Municipality - Limited to the same Ratio as Plenary 33 below
Plenary Retail Consumption License33Licensee to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption at the licensed premises, and the sale of packaged goods for consumption off premisesThrough application to the Municipality – Total licenses limited to 1 License for Every 3,000 Residents
Seasonal Retail Consumption License34Not a year-round license, this liquor license only permits sale of alcoholic beverages for seasonal period either from May 1st?through November 14th?or from November 15 through April 30thThrough application to the Municipality - Limited to the same Ratio as Plenary 33 above
Hotel/ Motel License36Like the Plenary Retail Consumption License but is only issued to a hotel or motel with 100 or more guest rooms.Through application to the Municipality provided hotel or motel has 100 or more guest rooms.
Plenary Retail Consumption License (theater exception)37Type of Plenary Retail Consumption License that authorizes the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises and only during the performances and for 2 hours prior to performance commences and 2 hours after the performance ends.Through application to the Municipality for issuance to a non-profit corporation which has musical or theater performance venue and a seating capacity of at least 1,000.
Plenary Retail Consumption License w/Brew Pub License?38Combination retail consumption and manufacturing license: the owner of a standard Plenary Retail Consumption License also has a Restricted Brewery License.Through application by a Plenary Retail Consumption Licensee and meets “Brewpub” criteria
Limited Retail Distribution License (NO longer being issued, only renewed, or transferred)43This liquor license permits the license holder to sell warm beer and other malt alcoholic packaged goods for consumption off premises.
LICENSE TYPE DISCONTINUED NO FURTHER ISSUANCE
Plenary Retail Distribution License44This license permits the license holder to sell packaged goods with no consumption on premises. 1 License for Every 7,500 Residents
Limited Beer, Wine & Cider LicenseA4825/ S2964Pending legislation introduced by both House and Senate to allow for Municipalities to issue additional licenses to Restaurants for on-premises consumption limited to wine, beer and cider served at tables (not a bar)TBD

OTHER LIQUOR LICENSES

Class A Liquor Licenses in New Jersey apply to Manufacturing of alcoholic beverages including breweries, wineries, and distilleries.

Class B Liquor Licenses in New Jersey apply to wholesale distribution of alcoholic beverages to retail licensees.

 

NEW JERSEY LIQUOR LICENSING

Obtaining an Alcoholic Beverage License in New Jersey

Liquor License Applications are published by the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (“NJ ABC”) and available on their website –https://www.njoag.gov/about/divisions-and-offices/division-of-alcoholic-beverage-control-home/

The NJ ABC Liquor License Application is used for new licensing, person-to-person transfer, place-to-place transfer, partnership changes, corporate structure changes, renewal of license, issues arising in bankruptcy and as required by the NJ ABC or governing Municipal authority.  Note that there are fees associated with the application and an annual municipal fee paid to the issuing authority in addition to the retail price paid for the license. At the time of this writing, the NJ ABC application fee cost $200.00.  Consult with your attorney for all fees associated with both initial application and other recurring charges.

License Transfers

New Jersey liquor license are typically obtained by purchasing an existing license and having it transferred to them through a “person-to-person” or “place-to-place” transfer application with each individual municipality or other issuing authority.  For a person-to-person or place-to-place transfer, the licensee, or the person to whom the license will be transferred, is required to file a retail license application, publish two legal notices of intent to transfer the license and get approval by the municipality or appropriate issuing authority with a written consent to transfer.   In addition, the licensee must obtain an Alcoholic Beverage Retail License Clearance Certificate and a Certificate of Sales Tax Authority from the New Jersey Division of Taxation.

SUMMARY & OPINION

In summary, Liquor Licensing in New Jersey is comprehensive yet limiting.  New Jersey provides a broad spectrum of licensure, however, pro-rata availability and restriction on licensing has had an undue impact on small resort communities, small “Main Street” communities that look to attract restaurants and entertainment operators but are limited to “BYO” venues.  The result is a deterrent on commercial real estate development and the creation of a vibrant “Main Street” atmosphere.  One solution is to adopt and enact pending House Bill A4925 and Senate Bill S2964 into law, however, licensing should not only allow for beer, wine and cider, a limited menu of alcoholic beverages, but rather a full bar menu.

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