What you need to know about New Jersey liquor license laws

What you need to know about New Jersey liquor license laws

Running a liquor-related business is tricky — there are many laws to abide by, and as a general rule, it is always better to err on the side of caution and of the law. Alcohol retail laws tend to be specific, not to mention that their corresponding fines tend to be harsh.

With so many things to consider before even qualifying to apply for a liquor license, it can be difficult to keep things together. Consider the following facts about New Jersey liquor licenses before you apply for one:

There is more than one controlling authority

As in all states, laws and ordinances are legislated and enforced by different levels of authority, with varying levels of influence and presence. In New Jersey, there is a strong tradition of municipal home rule, meaning local authorities tend to have considerable authority when it comes to the licensing and regulation of alcohol-related businesses.

However, municipal oversight isn’t total, and certain concerns are addressed by other controlling authorities, depending on the location and type of business. A legal expert on New Jersey alcohol laws can provide clear distinction on which cases or situations should be brought to which controlling authority.

There are different types of licenses

There are five license classes (A to E) in New Jersey, with a total of 29 distinct liquor licenses depending on the specific ways different businesses handle alcoholic products. Each license outlines specific activities that are permitted under the license, although the state also provides special temporary permits for activities that aren’t covered by existing licenses.

License fees range from $31 to as high as $8,750 for certain license designations. Special permit prices range between $10 and $2,000 and are limited to 25 days per year for their designated users. Make sure you identify the correct licenses for your specific operational activities. For instance, if your establishment wishes to serve drinks in glasses, you must apply for a license that allows you to serve alcoholic drinks in open receptacles — if you find these license fees to be outlandish, you’ll be shocked when you see how much penalties go for.

Different areas have different alcohol rules

In New Jersey, the statutory and regulatory control of alcoholic drinks generally rests with the state government, specifically by the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), which is overseen by the state’s Attorney General. However, Atlantic City casinos are overseen by different entities altogether — the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement and the New Jersey Casino Control Commission. Federal enclaves like military bases and national parks generally receive exemptions from the courts because they are mostly overseen at the national level.

Retail licenses are limited according to the population of each municipality. Because of this, new licenses can be prohibitively expensive, especially those sold through public auction. This is why it is always smart to consult with a liquor license expert before applying for one.

New Jersey municipalities have a lot of latitude when it comes to their area’s liquor license allocations. Some towns — many in South Jersey — have designated their area as “dry,” meaning no alcohol can be legally served or sold there. Dry towns cannot forbid possession, transportation, or consumption, but tend to have stiff rules with serving or making alcohol available for sale or for consumption. Since this can get complicated to discuss in general, make sure you consult your specific situation with legal experts.

License rules can get jargony and technical; before applying for one, seek the assistance of law experts such as KMH&L. We’ll make sure you’re armed with all the information you need. Schedule your appointment today.