New Jersey’s many liquor laws cause confusion for some

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New Jersey has dozens of types of liquor laws on the books, which can often lead to confusion over who can sell alcohol, along with where and when.

New Jersey residents aren’t able to buy beer at convenience stores like residents can in other states. 

One state law limits towns to one liquor license for every 3,000 people. Another limits corporations like supermarkets to holding just two retail licenses. Other laws say that some supermarkets can only sell unrefrigerated beer.

There are also laws that limit the time alcohol can be sold in stores. Some towns prohibit the sale of alcohol on Sundays. Other laws say alcohol can’t be sold after a certain time of the day.

Some New Jersey leaders say that the outdated and confusing laws can also cause economic issues for their towns.

Fanwood, for example, is undergoing new development near its downtown train station. But Fanwood director of economic development Liz Jefferies says that the town’s two consumption licenses are already held by two establishments outside the downtown area.

“Today's trends are that people are looking to live, they're looking to have nightlife and have experiences downtown as much as they're looking to just shop or grab a bite to eat,” Jefferies says. “So for us, a small town like Fanwood, having a limited number of consumption liquor licenses is tough.”

A state Assembly committee just held a hearing on a bill that would create a new type of license that would allow restaurants with no bar to serve beer and wine.

There have been other proposed bills that would change almost every aspect of New Jersey liquor laws, several of which were introduced decades ago. But almost none have made it to the full Legislature for a vote.

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