New Jersey lawmaker drafts plan for new, economical liquor license

A New Jersey lawmaker wants to create a new type of liquor license for restaurants to sell alcoholic beverages to patrons during a meal.

Assemblyman John Burzichelli’s bill would require restaurants to pay an annual fee of up to $10,000 for the restricted license.

There would be no limit on the number of the new liquor licenses towns could issue to restaurants. State law now issues liquor licenses based on a town’s population.

Burzichelli said the measure is a way of evening the playing field for young entrepreneurs.

“Where liquor licenses are available, they often, because of their scarcity, are auctioned off at such a high price the little guy doesn’t have a chance,” he said Wednesday. “A person graduating from culinary school is not going to be able to afford to pay a half a million dollars for a liquor license plus start up a business.”

The proposed change needs to be carefully examined, said Marilou Halvorsen, president of the New Jersey Restaurant Association.

“Our concerns are for the existing licensees and those who have, whether it’s just recently or 10 years ago, made a sizeable contribution to pay for liquor licenses,” she said. “Some liquor licenses go for over a million dollars in the state of New Jersey.”

Those who already hold lLiquor license holders would get a tax credit for the amount they paid, said Burzichelli, D-Gloucester.

“He has two choices with that credit. He can sell it through a broker, because they’re transferable, someone may want to buy it, or he can meter it in against his own corporate business tax in increments of 20 percent a year over a five-year period.”

Halverson said she isn’t sure if proposed tax incentives to protect the value of existing licenses will satisfy her members’ concerns.

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