Now Law: Mukherji Bill Allowing Municipalities to Continue Use of Designated Outdoor Areas for Alcohol Consumption

In response to COVID-19 safety concerns, certain New Jersey towns took steps during the pandemic to support small businesses by allowing the consumption of alcohol outdoors. A bill sponsored by Assembly Democrat Raj Mukherji to allow municipalities to designate outdoor areas in which people can consume alcohol going forward was signed into law Tuesday.

In May 2020, a law was passed to temporarily allow businesses such as restaurants and distilleries to deliver alcoholic beverages and sell them for off-premises consumption even if their liquor license would normally permit the sale of alcohol for on-premises consumption only. These permissions were granted in an effort to help food and beverage establishments generate revenue while indoor dining was limited due to the pandemic.

In response to customers being permitted to take out alcoholic beverages from these businesses, several municipalities decided to temporarily allow the consumption of alcohol in designated areas outdoors, such as boardwalks and specific streets.

The law (formerly bill A-5554/S-2921) gives municipalities the authority to designate outdoor areas in which members of the public can carry and drink alcohol. These will be known as open container areas.

“New Jersey restaurants need our assistance as they recover economically from the global pandemic, and folks who have been cooped up should be able to responsibly imbibe outdoors,” said Assemblyman Mukherji (D-Hudson). “Allowing our cities and towns to authorize alcohol consumption in specific outdoor zones will be a boon to these small businesses as we emerge from this crisis.”

Under the law, any municipality interested in designating a specific outdoor area for the consumption of alcohol will be required to hold a public hearing first to discuss the merits of establishing the open container area.

The act takes effect immediately.