Can Multiple Restaurants Use the Same Liquor License?
Due to New Jersey’s strict laws preventing the issuance of new liquor licenses, individuals and businesses that own and operate liquor licenses must be creative. Prospective license buyers constantly call our office asking if there is any way to “get around” the population caps in their municipality so that they can get a liquor license. While the New Jersey legislature constantly discusses the prospect of allowing more licenses for things like “beer and wine only”, it appears that actual legislation is still far away. So what options are left?
Well, if you currently own a liquor license and wish to add another bar or restaurant, it is possible. However, the process of doing so is requires strict adherence to certain rules and case law developed by the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
Can Two Restaurants in NJ Use One License?
Yes, but only under certain circumstances. Generally, if two separate restaurants that are owned and/or operated by two different companies, any attempt to sell alcoholic beverages under the same liquor license will be a violation of the law. This type of illegal practice is commonly referred to as “license splitting” and will result in a Notice of Charges from the State ABC. N.J.S.A. 33:1-26 provides in pertinent part: “[a] separate license is required for each specific place of business and the operation and effect of every license is confined to the licensed premises.” However, the definition of “specific place of business” is fluid and allows certain exceptions to this rule.
More specifically, it has been held that a licensee’s privileges are not
limited to service occurring in one single, self-contained building; instead a license may be utilized to authorize the dispensing of alcohol in more than one building, so long as same is determined to be a “single place of business.“
What Constitutes a “Single Place of Business”?
Case law and special rulings from current and previous ABC Director’s have expanding upon what will be considered a “single place of business.” Some of the factors that will be considered in this determination are: (1) The method of accounting used at the premises (singular accounting or multiple accounts); (2) Hiring and firing practices (common control or a difference in the power structure) and (3) The proximity and layout of the two areas (are the buildings/areas contiguous and/or open to public access). How your license operates within these three (3) factors will be of crucial importance to determining whether or not your licensed establishment has violated the law.
Just recently, the Director of New Jersey ABC issued a ruling regarding this very issue in Asbury Park.
NJ Lawyers for Liquor Licenses
Our firm specializes in the regulatory compliance and administration of liquor licenses throughout the State of New Jersey. Firm Partner, William C. Fay, IV, Esq. is a former Deputy Attorney General with the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Having spent part of his career regulating the Alcoholic Beverage Industry, Mr. Fay is well-equipped to assist you in any potential issues you have with the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control or local Municipal Authority. To speak with Mr. Fay today regarding any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to call our office at (732) 858-5857.