TRENTON — Another pandemic-prompted shift is here to stay, as the state has adopted a law allowing communities to designate open container areas for outdoor drinking of beer, wine and other alcohol.

On Tuesday, Gov. Phil Murphy signed the legislation, which was first introduced in fall 2020.

Cape May, Atlantic City and North Wildwood were among the Shore towns that had allowed for seasonal open carry and consumption of beer, wine and other alcoholic drinks starting in summer 2020.

The outdoor zones debuted alongside state directives as COVID-19 was wreaking havoc on the peak tourism months.

Washington Street Mall, Cape May (Google Street View)
Washington Street Mall, Cape May (Google Street View)
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By last spring, some residents billed as the Taxpayer Association of Cape May voiced concern over making the change permanent, as they felt it had rebranded Cape May into "Bourbon Street."

Atlantic City had allowed for people to purchase alcohol within the designated zones and drink openly on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, as well as within other sections of the city's tourism district, including the Orange Loop.

In August 2020, the entire tourism district of Atlantic City was made a permanent open container zone, under separate legislation signed by the governor.

“By permanently allowing outdoor consumption of alcoholic beverages in certain areas of the Tourism District, we can extend short-term support to small businesses who need it, and further strengthen the resurgence of Atlantic City as the East Coast’s premier resort destination,” Murphy said in a statement at the time.

North Wildwood had allowed for cocktails-to-go to be purchased at local bars and consumed in certain, designated public areas.

Under the new law, a municipal governing body now can hold a public hearing on the merits of establishing an open container area, before adopting an ordinance to designate one.

The sale of alcoholic beverages within such a zone would still be subject to other existing state laws and municipal rules and regulations.

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