New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation on Friday night that legalizes the sale and delivery of cocktails and mixed drinks during the COVID-19 state of emergency period.
The bill, adopted by the New Jersey legislature earlier this week, allows bars and restaurants with liquor licenses to sell alcoholic beverages in original containers or in closed and sealed containers, and mixed cocktails in closed and sealed containers for off-site consumption.
Previously, bars and restaurants were only permitted to sell or deliver alcohol in its original container, such as a bottle of wine, a six-pack of beer, or a canned cocktail.
The bill also permits craft distilleries to sell mixed beverages or to-go kits that are manufactured on-site.
“New Jersey’s restaurant and hospitality industry, like so many other businesses, has suffered tremendous financial losses due to COVID-19,” Murphy said. “Allowing business owners with certain licenses and permits to sell beverages directly to consumers is a creative way to alleviate some of their financial uncertainty.”
Chris Wood, the owner of Woody’s Ocean Grille in Sea Bright and an advocate for the bill, praised efforts on Monmouth County legislators.
“This will be a big boost for restaurants locally and throughout the state of New Jersey while generating additional sales taxes,” he wrote on Facebook. “It’s a win, win for everyone.”
Woody’s Ocean Grille is famous for its “Orange Crush” drink and had to stop selling them after the state shutdown started. The restaurant also quickly began offering a “pay-what-you-can” menu.
State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon also lauded the legislation as a win for all.
“Responsible residents who have been prisoners in their own homes can now buy cocktails made by their favorite bartenders for virtual happy hours with friends, and remote socializing,” he said. “Eliminating some of the confusion in the marketplace helps restaurants and other enterprises, and provides desperately needed opportunities for out-of-work New Jerseyans — particularly bartenders. Small businesses with liquor licenses can use the help while the lockdown remains in effect.”
The bill would expire six months following the end of the state of emergency or when coronavirus-related occupancy or customer seating restrictions no longer apply to the licensed premises, whichever occurs later.