Poll finds broad support for most new liquor license rules
New Jersey residents overwhelmingly support most provisions of Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposal to revamp New Jersey’s Prohibition-era liquor license laws, but the public is split evenly on tax credits the governor wants to award to existing license holders, a Rutgers-Eagleton poll found.
Large majorities exist for lifting food and event restrictions at breweries and allowing towns to award more liquor licenses to restaurants, while a smaller but convincing majority support allowing towns to transfer inactive liquor licenses to towns that want them.
These are the major items in Murphy’s liquor license plan, which he said would change an “antiquated and confusing” system and provide local business owners with the chance to boost their profits. Current law restricts towns to awarding one liquor license per 3,000 residents.
“It’s pretty solid majorities that we see across all demographic groups when it comes to things like lifting brewery restrictions on events and allowing liquor licenses to be transferred, and especially when it comes to giving breweries greater ability to serve food on premises,” said Ashley Koning, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling.
The poll found:
- 63% of New Jerseyans support lifting restrictions on the number of events breweries can hold.
- 92% back allowing breweries greater ability to serve food.
- 71% support giving small towns additional liquor licenses so more restaurants can serve alcohol.
- 57% back allowing towns with inactive licenses to transfer them to towns that want them.
Murphy’s proposal to offer tax credits worth between $30,000 and $50,000 dollars is the only provision of his plan not to win majority support in the poll. Respondents are locked in a statistical dead heat over that provision, with 45% supporting and 42% opposing.
“When we’re talking about credits or when we’re talking about any potential for money to come out of the pocket of New Jerseyans, it’s always kind of a ‘no’ from New Jerseyans given that we’re in such a heavily taxed state and that’s perennially the number one problem among residents,” Koning said.
The tax credits are an attempt to win the support of current liquor license holders who would see the value of their licenses drop when more become available. The state’s strict rules on licenses have ballooned their prices into the hundreds of thousands of dollars — or more than $1 million, in some cases — in most corners of the state.
An Assembly panel last week advanced some measures that move toward Murphy’s goal.