Only a handful of seasonal liquor licenses exist in New Jersey, but the Christie administration says a move to have them start serving earlier this year will have a major impact.
Three seasonal liquor licenses exist in Belmar. Traditionally, they could start serving alcohol May 1 each year. Gov. Chris Christie on Feb. 28 signed an executive order to allow liquor sales starting today, two months ahead of schedule.
The reason: Hurricane Sandy. In a prepared statement Christie said the early start date will hopefully create economic recovery for those businesses and the surrounding communities.
"Some of the most adverse effects in terms of lost commerce and economic activity from Superstorm Sandy were on our shore businesses that rely on seasonal alcoholic beverage licenses. These small businesses were unable to remain open for the full extent typically permitted under their licenses - May until mid-November - because of the mandatory evacuations, power outages, and other disruptions caused by Sandy through difficult weeks," said Governor Christie. "We've listened to our small business community on the shore and are taking action today to deliver relief this season by providing for a two-month expansion for seasonal alcoholic beverage licensees, allowing them to begin opening and conducting business beginning on March 1 rather than waiting until the typical May 1start."
Three businesses in town have seasonal liquor licenses — 10th Avenue Burrito and the beachfront businesses of D'Jais and La Dolce Vita — and there are only eight seasonal liquor licenses in the state, said Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty.
All the state's seasonal liquor licenses exist on the Jersey Shore, according to the Governor's office, and in areas both impacted by Sandy and a tenuous tourism season for 2013. However, the storm not only damaged the communities of these seasonal liquor license holders but also cut their season short, as the season lasts through mid-November.
The move to March 1 also hopes to mitigate those lost days, according to the executive order. "Under the provision of the Executive Order 126, for calendar year 2013, the date on which seasonal alcoholic beverage consumption licensees shall be permitted to commence serving alcoholic beverages shall be advanced from May 1, 2013 to March 1, 2013 and shall end on November 14, 2013, inclusive."
The new start date comes just in time for one of the biggest days of the year for Belmar: Sunday's St. Patrick's Day parade. But the borough has been eyeing the possible earlier start date and attempted to amend its local ordinances in anticipation. A special meeting held late January had a proposed ordinance to comply with the foreseen executive order, but was found to be unneeded, officials said at the time.