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March 03, 2015

Proposed N.J. legislation would expand liquor licenses

The bill would allow cheaper smaller restaurants to sell alcohol

A soon-to-be proposed bill would expand the number of New Jersey liquor licenses, allowing cheaper licenses for small restaurants in less-populated areas.

Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester, said recently in a press release he will propose the expansion to help spark economic development and job creation.

The current law says that there may only be one liquor license per 3,000 residents, reported. Burzichelli said that puts small restaurants at a disadvantage. 

"As a result of this restriction, there's an insufficient number - or complete lack - of available licenses in many municipalities, inflating the value of existing licenses and forcing prospective restaurateurs to buy a license at an exorbitant price or simply operate without a license," Burzichelli said. "This has created an unfair situation for many restaurant owners."

Under Burzichelli's proposal, a new license for a business of 1,500 to 3,000 square feet would cost $3,000, while it would cost $10,000 for a business of 3,001 to 6,000 square feet. He also proposes beer- and wine-only licenses for $1,500 for smaller restaurants and $5,000 for larger ones. Restaurants with those licenses would only be able to sell wine and beer until 10 p.m.

Christopher Lairson, co-owner of Carmelo's Ristorante in Bridgeton, said he supports the bill.

"It's been an ongoing issue in the area, people fighting for a liquor license to go along with nice food. A nice wine goes hand in hand with certain foods. It's expensive, and there's very few [licenses] out there," he said. "This would be a gateway for us, as owners, to make more profits."

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