Gov. Murphy proposes ending NJ’s cap on liquor licenses for a single town


New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is proposing a major rethink of how the state approaches liquor regulation – by easing restrictions on liquor licenses that have created $1 million-plus barriers to entry for would-be bar owners in some communities.

In his State of the State address on Tuesday afternoon, Murphy proposed the state “gradually relax” a population cap on liquor licenses — local governments are only allowed to issue one license per 3,000 residents – until it’s eventually eliminated completely, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. Eventually, the restriction would be eliminated in its entirety, Murphy planned to say.

“This won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. We project that overhauling our liquor license regime will create upwards of 10,000 jobs annually and, over the next 10 years, generate up to $10 billion in new economic activity and $1 billion in new state and local revenues,” his prepared remarks read.

His remarks weren’t specific about the timetable for relaxing the requirement, but the governor said municipalities would still retain local control that was “so critical in making sure our downtowns retain the character that makes them so special.” He also proposed a tax credit for businesses that had already invested in liquor licenses, which can go for more than $1 million in some towns.

Murphy also said he sought to remove “outdated” licensing and operating restrictions on craft breweries, distilleries and wineries, but his remarks weren’t specific about how those would change. In July, the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control began enforcing limits on the number of events those facilities could hold, and restricted collaborations with food trucks or similar vendors to provide food. The governor didn’t say if he was specifically endorsing already proposed legislation to loosen restrictions.

“People from all across the Northeast, and indeed from across the country, are coming to taste what is being poured from bottles, taps and barrels across New Jersey,” the prepared remarks read. “They are coming to enjoy one of the best and most diverse restaurant scenes of any state. It is absolutely imperative that we keep this renaissance going.”

Murphy began his State of the State address at 2 p.m. Legislative Republicans planned to livestream a response via Facebook at 3 p.m.

Also, according to his prepared remarks:

  • New Jersey will extend the deadline for its ANCHOR property tax relief program one month, to Feb. 28. The program can mean thousands of dollars in property tax rebates — Murphy cited the example of a middle-class family making $125,000 and paying the statewide average of $9,300 getting $1,500 back – but requires residents to apply. As of last month, about half of the 2 million residents who are eligible hadn’t applied, state officials say. The state originally set a deadline of Dec. 30, but extended it to Jan. 31.
  • Murphy said he’ll propose a new “Boardwalk Fund” to partner with Shore towns and make infrastructure updates, but his remarks didn’t discuss how it will be funded, how awards will be made or what level of funding he envisions.


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