NJABC Issues Special Ruling Creating COVID-19 Expansion Permit and Provides Guidance on To-Go Cocktails

Earlier this month, the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (“Division”) issued a special ruling to create temporary COVID-19 permits to expand licensed premises and an advisory notice regarding cocktails-to-go. These are summarized briefly below.

Special Ruling Establishing Temporary COVID-19 Permit to Expand Licensed Premises

This special ruling issued on June 3, 2020 establishes a COVID-19 Expansion of Premises Permit (“COVID-19 Expansion Permit”) to coincide with Executive Order No. 150, which allows licensees or permittees with on-premises retail consumption privileges to reopen and serve patrons in outdoor areas. The COVID-19 Expansion Permit allows the licensees and permittees to expand their licensed premises into outdoor areas, either contiguous or non-contiguous to their permanently licensed premises. All licensees and permittees with on-premises retail consumption privileges may apply for this permit, but no permit issued would be effective before June 15, 2020.

The special ruling sets forth certain criteria that must be met for issuance of the COVID-19 Expansion Permit. In all cases, the licensee is required to demonstrate that it has a possessory interest and control over the expansion areas, and that it will exercise only the same privileges afforded to it on its existing licensed premises. For example, licensees that offer food service on their licensed premises must do so on the expanded premises.

Any non-contiguous property must be in reasonable proximity to the licensed premises, and the licensee must implement safeguards to ensure that alcoholic beverages will be sold and served in a manner that protects public health, safety, and welfare. Some examples of permissible expansion areas include decks, patios, and sidewalks, among others. Any such areas must be accessible from the licensed premises and comply with all existing orders concerning public health and social distancing requirements. A COVID-19 Expansion Permit is not required for the sale of cocktails-to-go to a patron who consumes the beverage off of the licensed premises. Licensees that do not have on-premises retail consumption privileges are not eligible for the COVID-19 Expansion Permit.

As part of the application, the licensee will need to submit, among other items, a description of the property that is subject of the application and a security plan for the sale and service of alcoholic beverages on the expanded premises. The term of the COVID-19 Expansion Permit will run until November 30, 2020, but could possibly be extended by the Director of the Division in supplementary Special Rulings should the circumstances warrant.

Applications must be submitted through the POSSE ABC Online Licensing System (“POSSE”) and are then transmitted to the municipal clerk or police chief of the applicable locality. The Division will not take action on any application until it receives an endorsement or approval by the appropriate local governing body officials, and then the permit will be issued through POSSE. The Division may also impose any special conditions that it determines are necessary and proper.

Those eligible for a COVID-19 Expansion of Premises Permit include:

  • Plenary Retail Consumption licensees (“33”)
  • Plenary Retail Consumption licensees with the “broad package privilege” operating primarily as bars/restaurants (“32”)
  • Seasonal Retail Consumption licensees (“34”)
  • Plenary Retail Consumption licensees operating under the Hotel/Motel exception (“36”)
  • State Concessionaire permittees (“14”)
  • Golf Facility permittees (“40”)
  • Club licensees (“31”)
  • Limited Brewery licensees (“11”)
  • Restricted Brewery licensees (“08”)
  • Plenary Winery licensees (“21”)
  • Farm Winery licensees (“22”)
  • Cidery and Meadery licensees (“02”)
  • Craft Distillery licensees (“07”)

Advisory Notice Regarding New Law on Cocktails-to-Go During State of Emergency

The Division issued this advisory notice on June 2, 2020 to provide guidance to the liquor industry concerning P.L. 2020, c.33, enacted on May 15, 2020. This law allows retail consumption licensees, State concessionaire permittees and craft distillery licensees to sell “cocktails” to-go in tamper-evident containers.

This new law applies to holders of plenary retail consumption licensees used primarily for bars or restaurants (“33” or “32”), plenary retail consumption licensees used in connection with hotels or motels (“36”), seasonal retail consumption licensees (“34”), and holders of Special Concessionaire Permits or Temporary Authorization Permits. These licensees and permittees may sell, for off-premises consumption, any alcoholic beverages in original containers or in other closed and sealed containers, or any distilled alcoholic beverages mixed or blended with other alcoholic or nonalcoholic beverages in closed and sealed containers.

These licensees and permittees may also deliver alcoholic beverages to residences of consumers over 21 years old using the licensees’ own vehicles, provided they have transit insignias, or through common carriers. The law also allows craft distillery licensees to sell for off-premises consumption distilled alcoholic beverages manufactured on its licensed premises that are mixed or blended with other alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages in closed and sealed containers. They are also permitted to sell such beverages with accompanying nonalcoholic beverages or food stuff that allow consumers to prepare mixed drinks.

Malt alcoholic beverages or wine may be sold in any size container but must be affixed with a tamper evident seal. Distilled alcoholic beverages may be sold in containers that do not exceed 16 fluid ounces, inclusive of ice, and must also be affixed with a tamper evident seal. Containers such as plastic beverage pouches, bottles, or mason-type jars are acceptable, while disposable paper, plastic, or Styrofoam cups are not. In every circumstance, the container must have a tamper-evident seal, such as a crown-capped glass bottle, screw top that breaks from a ring when opened, or heat-sealed closure over sealed cap. The to-go container must contain some type of identifying label, and any off-premises consumption must take place in accordance with all local laws, ordinances, and rules.

This law will expire on the first day of the seventh month following the date on which the Governor declares the state of emergency has ended, or the date on which the coronavirus-related occupancy or customer seating restrictions no longer apply to the licensed premises, whichever date occurs later.

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