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How to to get a liquor license in New Jersey

If you’re looking to boost the revenue of your restaurant or eatery, obtaining a liquor license can be a fantastic way to turn an additional profit. What’s better than earning extra dough from your patrons imbibing responsibly in a fun atmosphere?

But buyer beware—securing a liquor license in the state of New Jersey can be quite an involved process. To help you better navigate the requirements and paperwork, we’ve outlined the main steps to your liquor license journey so that you can better serve your New Jersey clientele in an expedited fashion.

1. New Jersey liquor license requirements and laws

New Jersey has some of the most restrictive laws for obtaining a liquor license, mainly because licenses are issued based on a township or municipality’s population, meaning there’s a finite number of licenses issued. Due to license scarcity, most liquor licenses are bought directly from existing license holders, which ultimately creates bidding wars that drive up the price.

To qualify as an applicant for a New Jersey liquor license, you’ll need to meet the following requirements:

  • You must be at least 18 years old
  • You cannot have a conviction of any crime on your record that would call into question your morals
  • You must disclose the benefits of the license to be transferred
  • You cannot possess more than 2 retail licenses unless otherwise permitted by the state of New Jersey
  • You cannot be the owner of a New Jersey alcoholic beverage manufacturer or wholesaler
  • You cannot work in law enforcement or in a government position—such as assemblyman—that in some way is involved in the issuance and enforcement of New Jersey Alcoholic Beverage Control laws and regulations

Should you meet the above-mentioned requirements, you can move on to the background check.

Identification and background check

If you’re seeking a New Jersey liquor license, there’s a solid chance you’ll need to receive a background check from your local police department that digs into your personal, criminal, and financial background. As if that isn’t enough, you may be subject to stand before your municipal council for a public hearing to determine if you’re qualified.

Application process

If you pass the background checks and hearing requirements, you’ll then need to fill out a standardized application form that is used for all types of New Jersey liquor licenses, both state-issued and those issued by a municipality.

When filling out the application, you’ll need to include information about your establishment’s proposed location, information about you—the business owner—and the application itself must be accurate and signed by all of the correct parties involved who are applying for the license. If it’s a company applying for the license, then the head of the company must sign the application. You’ll also need to provide an in-depth description of the establishments’ surrounding area—regardless if it’s Jersey City, Westfield, Monmouth, or even New York—to ensure it’s far enough away from schools and religious institutions.

If your application is approved, you will need to renew your liquor license each year. However, suppose your application is denied by the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control for whatever reason. In that case, you can file an appeal with the Officer of Administrative Law and the Director of the New Jersey Division of ABC board.

Transferring a license

To transfer your New Jersey liquor license to another party, you’ll need to provide the following to your local municipality:

  • A license amendment to reflect the new license ownership
  • Provide 10% of the annual license renewal fee
  • A $200 payment to the state of New Jersey, Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control
  • The Resolution of TransferThe Consent of Sale or Consent to Transfer, which must be notarized and signed by the license holder
  • A Certificate of Sales Tax Authority
  • An Affidavit of Publication and a Notice of Intent to Transfer published one week apart

If you’re the receiving party of the license transfer, you’ll need to:

  • Disclose your source of funding for the license purchase
  • Provide federal and state fingerprint reports from the police
  • A police background check
  • Detailed information about the proposed location

2. Types of New Jersey liquor licenses

There are several different types of liquor licenses available in New Jersey that are each associated with other parts of the liquor sales and supply chain vertices. The area of the alcohol industry in which you work will impact the type of license you’ll need to secure.

Class A licenses are for liquor, beer, and wine manufacturers, which include:

  • The New Jersey Limited Brewery License
  • The New Jersey Distillery License
  • The New Jersey Winery License
  • The Cider and Meadery License
  • The Restricted Brewery License
  • The Out-of-State Winery License

Class B licenses are for liquor, beer, and wine wholesalers.

Class C licenses are for retail liquor licenses, liquor stores, and beer and wine retailers, which include:

  • The Plenary Retail Distribution License
  • The Club License
  • The Hotel and Motel License
  • The Plenary Retail Consumption License
  • The Broad Package Privilege License

Class D licenses are for liquor, beer, and wine transportation.

Class E licenses are for liquor, beer, and wine warehousing.

All of the above licenses only apply to the manufacturing, serving, sales, transportation of alcohol from place to place, or storing alcoholic beverages for profit within the state. The above licenses do not include the off-premises consumption of alcohol.

3. Can I get a one-day liquor license in New Jersey?

New Jersey allows its citizens to purchase a one-day liquor license in the form of a one-day liquor license permit. The New Jersey one-day liquor license permit costs $500 and cannot be bought more than 14 times in a calendar year.

4. How much does a New Jersey liquor license cost?

Due to high demand, the price of an NJ liquor license can reach upwards of seven figures, depending on where in the state your business is located. It’s been said that alcohol sales are “recession-proof,” which is another reason the ability to sell alcohol comes with such a high price tag. Additionally, liquor licenses are often viewed as assets because they continually increase in value. As long as people continue to drink and as long as New Jersey’s liquor license laws and ordinances continue to regulate alcohol, it’s believed the value of liquor licenses should continue to increase.

Further complicating matters, all New Jersey liquor licenses must be sold in the municipality where they were initially issued, meaning you can’t seek out and purchase a liquor license from one city and apply it to another.

While sales of New Jersey liquor licenses are private, some sources estimate the average liquor license price tag to be around $350,000. It’s a large fee for what could be a potentially lifelong lucrative business.

To protect your business and its future growth, remember to snag a liquor liability insurance policy along with your restaurant and bar insurance. In such a heavily regulated industry, you’ll be happy to operate your company knowing you’re covered from a multitude of risks involving your patrons and unforeseen events with your employees, and for all things business insurance, check out Huckleberry.

In less time than it takes to fix a tequila on the rocks, Huckleberry can provide you with insurance quotes and policy options that meet all of your business needs, safeguarding your bar or restaurant today and in the years to come.

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