Easing Liquor License Transfers Could Spur Economic Development, Says Sen. Singleton

Under proposed law, municipalities could transfer inactive liquor licenses to help redevelopment zones

TRENTON, NJ — Unused liquor licenses could be more easily transferred as part of an economic redevelopment plan under new legislation sponsored by State Senator Troy Singleton (D-Burlington).

The legislation, Senate Bill 3474, would establish procedures for municipalities to use to transfer plenary retail consumption licenses for use as part of an economic redevelopment plan. These licenses are necessary for any establishment to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption.

Under the bill, a municipality that is eligible to issue an additional retail consumption license would be authorized to offer the license at public sale to the highest bidding municipality in the state. The funds received from the sale would be transferred to the municipal treasurer for the general use of the host municipality.

A license that is not actively used within two years of issuance date would expire.

Furthermore, a receiving municipality that has reached the license limitation established under current law would be able to issue a request for proposal to acquire an inactive license from any license holder in the state.

Singleton, who serves as the Chairman of the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee, introduced the measure on Thursday, January 12.

Just two days earlier, in his annual State of the State Address, Governor Phil Murphy proposed overhauling New Jersey's liquor license laws that he called "antiquated" and remove outdated licensing and operating restrictions on breweries and distilleries

"Expanding the number of available liquor licenses will not only help keep our favorite local restaurants healthy, it will also help keep our economy healthy," Murphy said in the speech. "I further ask you to join me in removing outdated licensing and operating restrictions on our craft breweries, distilleries and wineries, which are seeing nothing short of a true renaissance."

Singleton is joined in sponsoring the measure by Bergen County Senator Paul Sarlo, who applauded him for "starting the conversation on liquor license reforms, but we should not start by adding more licenses." 

“We have to be sensitive to the fact that adding new licenses will devalue existing ones," added Sarlo, who noted that there are approximately 1,000-plus existing, inactive and pocket licenses around the state. “We should also consider a provision that will permit the Economic Development Authority to allow for the use of low-interest loans for small family businesses that will invest in licenses in downtown urban areas."

The measure has been referred to the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee, chaired by Senator Linda Greenstein (D-Mercer), for review and consideration. 

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