A proposed law that aims to expand outdoor alcohol consumption in New Jersey has taken another step toward Gov. Phil Murphy's desk for a potential signature.

Under the measure that's already been approved by the full Senate and on Dec. 6 cleared an Assembly committee unanimously, municipalities would be authorized to permit pedestrians to consume alcoholic beverages outdoors in "an open container area," during the pandemic and beyond.

According to the bill's language, this area can be any portion of the municipality, or encompass the entire town.

"I envision a few more Savannahs than I do New Orleans with this," said Asm. Raj Mukherji, D-Hudson, a sponsor of the measure.

Municipalities would not be able to make the move until they've held a public hearing on the merits of establishing an open container area in town. If eventually approved by the governor, the law would take effect immediately.

The measure was approved by the state Senate in July, months after Murphy approved a law to permanently permit outdoor public consumption in Atlantic City's tourism district.

"I think it's part of what we're seeing as this new future where we're being innovative and we're trying to be more flexible for the betterment of our future economy," said Dana Lancellotti, president and CEO of the New Jersey Restaurant & Hospitality Association.

Lancellotti said the proposed law would obviously help restaurants and other alcohol-serving establishments by giving them an opportunity to sell more drinks, but she noted it would also give another option to consumers who may not yet be completely comfortable eating and drinking indoors.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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