Governor Murphy hosts roundtable on modernizing New Jersey's 90-year-old liquor license laws

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Thursday, February 23, 2023
Murphy hosts roundtable on modernizing NJ's liquor license laws
New Jersey Governor Murphy is hosting a roundtable discussion on modernizing the state's liquor license laws. Toni Yates has the story.

CLINTON, New Jersey (WABC) -- New Jersey Governor Murphy hosted a roundtable discussion on modernizing the state's liquor license laws.

The same laws have been in place for more than 90 years -- since prohibition.

Murphy was joined by a number of restaurant owners and fellow officials at the Pru Thai restaurant in Clinton.

Current liquor laws prohibit Clinton from having any licenses available because of its small population, just under 3,000.

Restaurant owners, like George Constantinou, say the highly restrictive laws make it difficult for them to maintain a business in New Jersey and pay their employees properly.

"My drinks in Brooklyn are 70 percent profit. In Jersey - single digits. So if I want to pay employees more in New Jersey, it's a struggle," Constantinou said.

Local officials also say the regulations also have a significant negative impact on tourism.

"Hunterdon County is full of small communities. Flemington, Tewksbury, High Bridge. We're all small towns with small populations and we are locked out of the liquor license," Clinton Mayor Janice Kovach said.

Entrepreneurs say the bidding process can make it nearly impossible for smaller restaurants to even compete to receive a license with some of them going for more than $1 million.

Murphy is calling for gradually expanding the number of licenses until such restrictions are eliminated, he wants to compensate those who spent so much for a license, calling for a "targeted tax credit."

Murphy says it's is also costing New Jerseyans jobs.

"We think it is about 10-thousand jobs annually, $10 billion in 10 years or more in economic activity," Murphy said.

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