New Jerseyans can now get their booze to go from bars and restaurants, per a bill signed by Gov. Phil Murphy Friday.
Alcohol in its original containers and mixed cocktails in closed and sealed containers are legal for delivery and pickup from restaurants and bars during the current state of emergency.
Craft distillers can also sell cocktail kits, which include non-alcoholic mixers or items that can be used to prepare a mixed drink, for pickup only. Previously, distilleries selling anything that could be considered foodstuffs were illegal. However, they still can’t deliver.
“Restaurants and our hospitality businesses have been uniquely impacted by the COVID-19 public health crisis, and we need to do all we can to help this vital industry stay afloat,” said Sen. Vin Gopal, D-11th District, in a statement. “With dining rooms and bars closed across our state, it makes no sense to ban restaurants and craft beverage manufacturers from offering alcoholic beverages for takeout and delivery, especially when liquor stores are already empowered to do the same. Allowing them to continue selling cocktails and other beverages directly to customers will be a small way to help this hard-hit industry regain some of the revenues they’ve lost.”
“Responsible residents who have been prisoners in their own homes can now buy cocktails made by their favorite bartenders for virtual happy hours with friends, and remote socializing,” said Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-13th District, in a statement. “Eliminating some of the confusion in the marketplace helps restaurants and other enterprises, and provides desperately needed opportunities for out-of-work New Jerseyans – particularly bartenders. Small businesses with liquor licenses can use the help while the lockdown remains in effect.”
Jersey Spirits owner John Granata, who called the loss in craft Fairfield distillery business related to COVID-19 “devastating,” called the ability to make cocktail kits “another tool.”
“They gave us another tool, not without fighting for it. There is a little bit of parity there. Every little bit helps,” he said. “We’re going to take advantage of what we can take advantage of, and it might even become more critical to us when we start opening, since we can’t have as many people inside, we can sell the kits curbside.”
The ability to deliver would have been a bigger help, though, he said.
“The brewers, they are all getting a huge amount more of the market back than we can recover just by making people come here. It’s discriminatory,” he said. “I get social media messages all the time asking if we’re delivering. Whereas Kane Brewery in South Jersey, my friends up in Morris County are getting Kane beer delivered. We’re definitely not on a level playing field. Like every business and license holder, we’re just trying to connect with customers. You can give us tools, but they’re not necessarily the sharpest tools.”
The bill expires six months from the day the state of emergency has ended, or six months from the day on which the COVID-19-related occupancy restrictions don’t apply to the licensed premises, whichever occurs later.