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Understanding New Jersey BYOB Laws

The Bring Your Own Bottle (BYOB) laws can be confusing for owners of restaurants or other public venues where beverages or food are sold. New Jersey has some archaic laws governing the sale of alcohol and the number of establishments that can obtain a liquor license. BYOB laws pertain to malt beverages (beer) and wine only, and not to other spirits such as vodka, rum, scotch, and whiskey. As a restaurant owner, do you have trouble understanding New Jersey BYOB laws? Those needing legal guidance in this area may want to consider visiting with Yates Law, LLC at (551) 237-8921.

Why Beer and Wine Only?

It is not clearly understood why the New Jersey BYOB laws allow patrons who are of age to bring wine and beer only into restaurants that allow BYOB. Mixed drinks and distilled spirits are still prohibited, as many have the opinion that these types of drinks or alcohol are stronger or more potent than beer or wine. The fact is, standard drinks including beer, wine, and spirits contain an identical amount of alcohol, which is six-tenths ounce.

Is BYOB Allowed Throughout New Jersey?

The quick answer is no. There are municipalities in New Jersey whose local governments do not permit BYOB in restaurants and other establishments. There are also more than 30 dry towns in the state, which mean they do not sell liquor of any kind in stores, bars, restaurants, or other venues. There are no liquor licenses in these towns. That said, there are dry towns which allow restaurants to offer BYOB. Restaurant and other establishment owners should check local ordinances to determine if BYOB is allowed in specific towns or municipalities. Some of the dry towns include but are not limited to:

  • Audubon Park
  • Elk Township
  • Haddon Heights
  • Lawrence Township
  • Mantoloking
  • Pemberton
  • Port Republic
  • Riverton
  • South Harrison Township
  • Wenonah
  • Wildwood Crest

Can Restaurants and Food/Beverage Establishments Advertise BYOB?

Restaurant owners do not need to have a liquor license for customers who are 21 or older to bring their own bottle. Given the difficulty of obtaining a liquor license for many eating establishments in the state, it is understandable that customers who are dining may want to bring their own beer or wine to enjoy with dinner. The problem in the past is that restaurants and other establishments could not advertise either inside or out that they allowed BYOB. This not only affected customers in making their decisions about where to dine, but many restaurants’ business as well.

In November of 2018 the United States District Cout – District of New Jersey declared the ban on advertising BYOB was unconstitutional following a decision in GJJM Enterprises v. City of Altantic City, et al. This decision was based on First Amendment grounds, and the court determined restaurants and other food/beverage establishments who do not hold a liquor license may advertise their BYOB status.

Can Customers Bring Alcohol Into Licensed Premises?

Under New Jersey BYOB laws there are no regulations prohibiting customers from bringing alcoholic beverages into restaurants or other establishments with a liquor license, however the licensee can either permit or disallow this practice in accordance with their business policy according to the State of New Jersey. Additionally, when a retail or liquor license is suspended there can be no BYOB activity. A suspended licensee is not allowed to serve, sell, deliver, or allow consumption of any type of alcohol, including beer and wine, on the licensed premises. Those with questions or concerns may want to consider reaching out to Yates Law, LLC.

Who Enforces BYOB in New Jersey?

Many restaurants, juice bars, and other food/beverage establishments assume the State of New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) enforces BYOB regulations, however in regards to establishments that do not have liquor licenses, the ABC has no legal jurisdiction. Local law enforcement agencies have the burden of ensuring that BYOB establishments comply with the law. Restaurant operators may be placed in legal jeopardy when patrons continue to consume alcohol after they are visibly intoxicated, or patrons consume alcoholic beverages unlawfully (for instance, underage). Ultimately, those in violation of New Jersey BYOB laws could be charged by local police with per incident violations. A lengthy history of BYOB laws violations may be considered a reason for rejection of a future bid for ABC licensure.

BYOB Laws for Restaurants

There are certain laws governing restaurants and other establishments who wish to participate in BYOB in New Jersey. While no liquor license is necessary (and obtaining one is no easy feat), by law a BYOB restaurant or food/beverage establishment may not allow:

  • Consumption of mixed drinks or hard liquor (vodka, gin, whiskey, brandy, tequila)
  • Consumption of wine or beer by anyone younger than 21 years of age
  • Consumption of alcohol by those who are visibly intoxicated
  • Assessment of a cover charge
  • Charge a corkage fee

Restaurants and other BYOB establishments may provide glasses and ice and must make certain that no one under the age of 21 is consuming beer or wine on their premises. While those under age 21 may consume alcohol in private places, they cannot legally do so in public or semi-public places under the law. Additionally, wine and beer are not to be consumed after closing hours or during other hours outlined by municipalities.

Consider Scheduling a Consultation with Yates Law, LLC

New Jersey’s alcohol laws are a bit confusing, to say the least. Depending on the size and population of a municipality, liquor licenses can be extremely difficult if not impossible to come by. This leaves many restaurants and other food/beverage establishments wondering if they can or should participate in BYOB in order to provide their customers with an enhanced dining experience. It is very important to clearly understand the New Jersey BYOB laws and how violation of these laws, either by patrons or restaurant operators, could result in sanctions. Those in need of skilled legal support or who are interested in scheduling a consultation may want to consider contacting Yates Law, LLC at (551) 237-8921.