Sunday, April 6, 2014

Liquor Commission to be Discussed Monday

A proposed ordinance to create an "Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission" is up for discussion at Monday's City Council meeting. At present, the governing body itself decides whether to approve or deny license renewal for more than 30 establishments in the city that sell or serve liquor. All the licenses are up for renewal in June.

New Jersey has strict laws about alcohol control, all contained in a handbook issued by the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control within the state Department of Law & Public Safety. The portion about local control allows for establishment of a board that would deal with license renewal and related issues:


The Alcoholic Beverage Control Law provides for an issuing authority in each municipality to issue, renew 
and transfer retail licenses and provides for enforcing that law, A.B.C. rules and regulations and local 
ordinances pertaining to the control of alcoholic beverages. The issuing authority is the governing body of 
the municipality unless the municipality establishes a municipal board, which is commonly known as an 
“Alcoholic Beverage Control Board” or “A.B.C. Board.” An A.B.C. Board may be established in any 
municipality which has a population of at least 15,000. The A.B.C. Board consists of three members 
appointed on a bipartisan basis for 3-year terms. Currently, there are 20 municipalities with A.B.C. Boards. 
 They are: Atlantic City, Camden, Clifton, East Orange, Elizabeth, Galloway, Garfield, Hillside, Hoboken, 
Jersey City, Linden, Newark, North Bergen, Orange, Passaic, Paterson, Rahway, Secaucus, West New York and West Orange. 

Once a municipal A.B.C. board has been created, it has all of the powers, duties and obligations that the 
governing body of the municipality would ordinarily exercise relative to the issuance, transfer, enforcement 
and discipline of retail licenses within the municipality. (N.J.S.A. 33:1-5 and 33:1-24.) 

The licensing process tends to be cumbersome and drawn out, as not all license holders fulfill the requirements in a timely way. They have to submit various proofs, such as payment of state sales tax and status of employees, and must pass inspections by police for infractions. Sometimes police send in officers under 21 to see whether a liquor store conducts underage sales. Drug activity or prostitution has been detected in the past and led to issuance of violations and hearings.

Last year, the Clinton Deli's license was denied, but the owner was allowed to sell alcohol while the denial was appealed.

Liquor stores and night clubs have been perceived as nuisances in some neighborhoods and one of the chronic complaints from the public is that the city has too many liquor establishments. The state imposed license limits based on population several years ago, but many in Plainfield were "grandfathered in" and allowed to operate.

As noted above, a local board could be created. One of the more recent issues about licenses is the need of developers to obtain licenses for restaurants and other venues that are planned or under construction.

If a discussion Monday indicates the need for an ordinance creating such a board, it could be passed on first reading at the April 15 meeting and on second reading on May 12. 

Monday's meeting is 7:30 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.


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