Boro eases liquor rule for downtown developments

As the borough moves through early stages of managed development of the commercial district, older laws will have to be updated to account for the changing face of downtown.

Council dealt with one of the rules at the most recent Borough Council meeting, approving an ordinance that amends an older rule governing distance between businesses that sell alcohol for consumption.

Specifically, the old rule governs how far such businesses have to be from each other. The older rule set the distance at 500 feet; that distance limitation was removed from the ordinance as part of the amendment Council approved at the meeting.

Businesses that sell alcohol strictly for distribution rather than consumption still must abide by a required 300-foot separation. Council kept that rule in place to keep control over the one remaining liquor license in the borough, a distribution license that is part of the A&P bankruptcy proceedings.

“We aren’t certain where the A&P license is going … and we didn’t want two stores next to each other,” Metuchen Mayor Pete Cammarano said in an email response to questions.

The impetus for the changed rule was the two new developments downtown — Whole Foods and Woodmont Properties — that hold inactive “pocket” liquor licenses, according to Susan Jackson, Metuchen borough clerk.

“We had to make the accommodations so that there won’t be any issues when they transfer them into active licenses,” Jackson said in an email response to questions.

“The change was because of concern that the new licenses at Whole Foods and the Woodmont project could be in conflict with existing licensed establishments,” Cammarano said.

Cammarano added he wasn’t sure why the original distance restrictions were created. “My best guess is it was intended to [not] have too many establishments congregated in one spot in town,” he said.

Metuchen has 11 liquor licenses: two club licenses; six plenary consumption licenses (which include the two currently inactive licenses); and three plenary distribution licenses.

Municipalities are granted liquor licenses based on population. Check out this guy’s blog for information about the various types of liquor licenses.

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