CLINTON, N.J. (PIX11) – Gov. Phil Murphy is looking to shake and stir up some big changes to liquor license laws.
“Way, way, way overdue in our state,” said Murphy.
Part of Murphy’s vision for liquor license reform spans from making licenses more affordable, to allowing breweries to serve food, to removing caps on how many licenses a municipality can have.
“We think 10,000 jobs annually and $10 billion of economic activity over the next decade,” said Murphy. “It’s a game changer and won’t be easy, but I’m really optimistic we’re going to get this done.”
The roundtable on liquor license reform met in Clinton, a small town in Hunterdon County with restaurants like Pru Thai, which served as an example of who would benefit from being able to afford a liquor license.
“After the pandemic, dining in, diners, they’re the same anymore, so we’ve kind of lost like half the sales,” said Pru Thai owner Korn Wangsarochana, “And if we have … maybe just like a beer and wine license, that would help us to bring diners back.”
But not everyone is on board just yet. The New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association (NJRHA) said that while it’s welcome to exploring reform, adding more new licenses to the market will immediately diminish the value of those licenses and devastate those businesses.
“The concern is for those who’ve already made the investment,” said NJRHA President and CEO Dana Lancellotti. “We all think it would be wonderful to have more accessible licenses and affordable licenses, we want everyone to succeed. But the problem is you can’t have that without tending to the investments that have already been made. You can’t dismiss it and you can’t just erase it.”
Murphy said they will propose a tax credit to those businesses, but the NJRHA said that won’t cure the pain for owners who have already paid tens of thousands of dollars for a license.
Lawmakers will be pushing to introduce the legislation as early as next week.