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How to Renew a Pocket or Inactive Liquor License in New Jersey

2019-2020 ABC Renewal Notices

If you own a liquor license that is sited but inactive or an inactive “pocket” license, then you may have received a notice from the NJ Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control regarding renewal and mandatory “relief” for renewal that is required under N.J. Specifically, you may have received a notice stating the following:

“This is to notify you that your license already has or is about to expire, as depicted in the above date.

Please sign on, using your registered user, to our public site at If you have not registered please contact your local ABC Representative. If your license has already expired, you will see further instructions below under “License expired”.

There is a 12.39 Ruling required for the 2019-2020 license term due to the inactivity of your license. You must still file a timely renewal application and both filing fees on or before July 30, 2019 You are also required to file a verified petition with the Director to allow renewal of a license that became inactive on or before June 30, 2017. 

What is a 12.39 Ruling?

In New Jersey, liquor licenses that are not currently active or sited at a location cannot are prevented from renewing every year. Instead, these licenses must obtain a Special Ruling from the Director of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control permitting renewal by the municipality. These rulings are statutorily required under N.J.S.A. 33:1-12.39 and they only apply to Class C Licenses. N.J.S.A. 33:1-12.39 states that “No Class C license, as the same is defined in R.S.33:1-12, shall be renewed if the same has not been actively used in connection with the operation of a licensed premises within a period of two years prior to the commencement date of the license period for which the renewal application is filed unless the director, for good cause and after a hearing, authorizes a further application for one or more renewals within a stated period of years.”

In laymen’s terms, your local municipality cannot renew your inactive license if it has been inactive for a period of two (2) years unless Director has first signed an Order for relief of your license.

What is “Good Cause” for 12.39 Special Rulings?

There is no black-and-white answer to this question. Instead, the analysis of whether “good cause” exists is assessed on a case by case basis and you should consult with an experienced ABC Liquor Law Attorney before filing any petitions for a 12.39 Ruling. 

New Jersey Liquor License Attorneys

William C. Fay, IV, Esq., is a former New Jersey Deputy Attorney General with the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Mr. Fay understands the complexities and intricacies involved with the alcoholic beverage industry and can help assist you and your business in any pending matters before your municipal board or the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control. For an immediate and complimentary consultation with Mr. Fay, please contact our office at 732.858.5857. 

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