Legislation to Expand Liquor and Outdoor Dining Regulations Amid COVID-19 Pandemic Clears Budget Committee

Legislation to Expand Liquor and Outdoor Dining Regulations Amid COVID-19 Pandemic Clears Budget Committee

Trenton – To help restaurants, bars, breweries and distilleries continue to operate in the face of devastating burdens placed on them due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today approved legislation to help these businesses stay afloat in these coming months.

The bill, S-3128, sponsored by Senators Nellie Pou and Paul Sarlo, would expand opportunities for restaurants, bars, and breweries to provide outdoor dining.

“While the expansion of outdoor dining has been beneficial for restaurants and bars in recent months, many businesses have been hindered in operating in outdoor spaces due to restrictive zoning ordinances imposed by certain municipalities,” said Senator Pou (D-Passaic/Bergen). “Additionally, these businesses face a great deal of uncertainty over the continued extension of the COVID-19 Expansion of Premises Permit that has allowed businesses to serve alcohol outside to customers on a temporary basis. This bill would alleviate any ambiguity by establishing a standardized application process for establishments seeking to utilize outdoor spaces.”

Under this bill, restaurants and other operators will be able to utilize covered and uncovered patios and decks, yards, walkways, parking lots and public sidewalks for both food and alcohol consumption.  Additionally, the bill allows, with permit, the sale at farm markets of products made by a brewery, craft distillery, winery or meadery.

Restaurant owners must file an application with the municipal zoning officer prior to expanding their outdoor dining services.

“Restaurants, bars, and breweries have experienced significant business loss due to the prolonged closure of non-essential business that was  implemented last spring as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator Sarlo (D-Bergen/Passaic), who chairs the Senate Budget Committee. “While indoor dining was permitted to reopen at 25 percent capacity in September, many businesses have greatly benefited from the current expanded outdoor dining opportunities. In order to further help our dining establishments remain profitable in the coming months, we must expand upon these regulations and give them more chances to serve their patrons.”

The bill cleared committee by a vote 12-0.