Restrictions Lessened For Bars, Restaurants With Alcohol

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  TRENTON – Restaurants, bars, and other establishments licensed to serve alcoholic beverages have been given the nod to prepare to reopen for outdoor sit-down service with social distancing practices in place.

  Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) announced provisions allowing them to expand their licensed premises to include increased outdoor service space permitted under Gov. Phil Murphy’s Executive Order.

  The ABC issued a special ruling that allows licensees to apply for one-time, temporary permits to extend their “licensed premises” – that is the area in which they are permitted to serve alcohol – to include decks, patios, parking lots, sidewalks and other open outdoor areas adjacent or close by their premises, to correspond with increased seating capacity once they reopen. The permits will expire on Nov. 30.

  The action comes after the governor issued Executive Order No. 150, which permits restaurants, bars and other food or beverage establishments to reopen for outdoor sit-down service effective 6 a.m. June 15.

  A previous Executive Order allowed those establishments to remain open during the COVID-19 state of emergency, but only for pickup or delivery services. On-premises service of food and alcohol has been prohibited to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

  As it was expected that municipalities across the state would seek to allow restaurants and bars to expand their service footprint, both on their property and onto shared property, to accommodate outdoor service, ABC is granting temporary permits that will allow licensees to expand liquor service into these areas.

  “As New Jersey’s bars and restaurants reopen sit-down service to patrons, we are doing everything we can to help meet their needs to serve patrons while also complying with the social distancing requirements in place to prevent a resurgence of COVID-19,” Grewal said.

  He added, “our first priority is to protect the health and safety of all New Jerseyans as our state embarks on the road to economic recovery.”

  James Graziano, Acting Director of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control said, “we are committed to enabling New Jersey’s retail consumption segment of the alcoholic beverage industry to resume sit-down service with safeguards in place to protect public health”

  Graziano said, “the Special Ruling we’re announcing today will help offset the economic impact to licensees caused by a reduced capacity of patrons allowed on-premises at any given time.”

  The executive order will allow food or beverage establishments to open for service in outdoor areas provided that tables seating individual groups are six feet apart, and includes a number of safety and sanitization protocols that the Department of Health will be issuing.

  It also permits establishments to expand service into outdoor areas to increase seating capacity. The “COVID-19 Expansion Permit” allows licensees to extend their premises onto areas adjacent to or contiguous with the licensed premises, where they may provide for the sale and service of alcoholic beverages as on the primary licensed premises.

  The ABC Director may also permit a licensee to expand its premises onto non-contiguous property, provided the property is in reasonable proximity to the licensed premise and the licensee has safeguards in place to ensure that alcoholic beverages will be sold and served in a manner that protects public health, safety and welfare.

  The provision to expand services into outdoor areas calls for licensees to demonstrate that they either own the property or have permission from the owner to use it for serving alcohol. 

  They must offer the same services in the expanded area – i.e. food service – as they do on-premises. Examples of permissible expansion areas include decks, patios, sidewalks and parking lots next to licensed premises, as well as parks and other public rights-of-way, as long as they are accessible from the licensed premises.

  There is a $76 fee for the COVID-19 Expansion Permit and licensees can start applying for permits on June 5 through the POSSE ABC Online Licensing System (“POSSE”). The permits are effective on June 15.