Poll: NJ residents want changes to liquor license, brewery rules
Most of New Jersey appears to be on board with Gov. Phil Murphy's call for a makeover of the state's liquor license laws.
In a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll of more than 1,000 New Jersey adults, respondents expressed widespread support for reforms related to liquor licenses and craft breweries, across party lines and all demographic groups.
Seventy-one percent of New Jerseyans said they're in support of giving small towns additional retail consumption licenses, which would permit more spots to serve alcohol. Twenty-six percent said they are opposed to additional licenses. Licenses are currently tied to an area's population.
Fifty-seven percent indicated that they'd be on board with permitting towns that have active liquor licenses to transfer those licenses to another town in the same county.
Murphy mentioned his intentions to reform New Jersey's liquor license laws during his State of the State address in January. He unveiled a comprehensive plan for reform in February, which would, among other moves, gradually phase out population caps on licenses and remove restrictions on breweries.
In the meantime, state legislators have been giving the green light to proposals that promote a similar agenda.
In late May, an Assembly committee advanced legislation that allows for the transfer of licenses in certain instances, and a measure that would open the door for malls to allow alcohol sales in their food court.
Another piece of approved legislation would allow breweries to hold an unlimited number of events each year. The on-site annual event count is currently capped at 25 — that includes entertainment such as trivia night or live music, or airing the World Series.
The legislation also permits breweries to coordinate with any restaurant, food vendor or food truck in order to feed their customers.
In the Rutgers-Eagleton survey, 92% of respondents said they're in favor of allowing breweries greater ability to serve food on their premises. Sixty-three percent are in favor of lifting the current restriction on the number of events a brewery can hold in a year.
“This poll is yet another indication that New Jersey residents overwhelmingly oppose the senseless and harmful restrictions on New Jersey breweries," said Eric Orlando, executive director of the Brewer's Guild of New Jersey.
The group wants the legislation passed and signed before July when licenses are reissued.
Reform efforts have been criticized by trade organizations that fear what changes could mean for current license holders.
To that point, Murphy has floated the idea of a tax credit for license holders impacted by any expanded supply of licenses.
In the Rutgers-Eagleton survey, 45% of New Jersey residents said they'd agree with letting license holders receive a tax credit of $30,000 to $50,000 as a way to make up for the possible decrease in value of their licenses, and 42% are against the proposal.
"Residents' sole hesitancy, unsurprisingly, is with tax credits for current license holders, which is in line with the broader narrative of New Jerseyans not wanting anything to ultimately impact their own wallet," said Ashley Koning, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling.