New Jersey is a great place, but there are some quirks about its liquor laws:
- First, and most importantly, about 15 years ago the state legislature passed a law restricting liquor licenses for bars or restaurants to 1 per every 3,000 people in a municipality. However, they grandfathered all existing liquor licenses. This means that in a town like mine, the population would only allow 1 liquor license, but there are actually 4 or 5, and they are bought and sold like houses and mortgaged like a business expense--they usually cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. And, if a town is growing in population, and gains a liquor license, they can sell it off to the highest bidder.
- Beer, wine, and hard liquor can only be sold in liquor stores. Liquor stores can only be open until 10pm. After that, certain bars can sell you package goods, which is usually beer.
- Most bars close at 2am. Bartenders can be held liable if someone is drunk driving after leaving the bar and kills someone.
- Since most restaurants don't have liquor licenses, they can get a bring your own permit, and actually serve you your own beer and wine that you bring in. Most restaurants have glasses and wine chillers for this very purpose. Some charge a small serving fee of a few dollars to make up for the fact that they didn't get to mark up the booze by having it on the menu.
- Up until about five years ago brewpubs were illegal (it was illegal to sell alcohol for consumption on the premises where it was manufactured.) Thankfully that law has changed and now there are several nice brewpubs in the state. They still have to have a conventional liquor license as well, though.