NJ remains the only state with ban on food in funeral homes
When an officer's wife passed away and his brothers in blue brought donuts to the funeral home handling arrangements, they were told to keep the food outside.
When grieving family members ask for a cup of coffee while planning the services of a deceased loved one, they have to be denied.
"No, I'm sorry. It's against the law," said Enrico Caruso, owner of two funeral homes in Camden County.
New Jersey is the only state in the nation with an outright ban on food and beverages in connection with funeral arrangements, according to professionals in the industry. Many funeral homes in the state are pushing for passage of legislation that would repeal this ban and allow food and refreshments to be served to friends and family on the premises.
"Removing the prohibition would provide us more flexibility regarding our offerings, to respond to consumer demand by allowing us to better address requests from the families that we serve," said Michael Sutton, manager of Quinn-Hopping Funeral Home in Toms River, and a past president of the State Funeral Director's Association.
"There are also certain cultures where the inclusion of food is paramount to the funeral process," he added.
A panel of state lawmakers shaved time out of a recent hearing to hear testimony on the measure, but did not vote on it. The bill, which is only permissive and does not force funeral homes to serve food and drinks, doesn't specifically address whether alcohol would be permitted.
The Assembly Regulated Professions Committee is formally taking up the measure on Thursday.
Under current law, patrons are also prohibited from bringing in outside food and drinks.
"The prohibition in New Jersey is decades old and we believe that it's outlived its dated purpose and constrains funeral home operators from being able to serve their client families to their fullest potential," said Adam Guziejewski, speaking on behalf of SCI Funeral Services, which operates 25 registered mortuaries in the Garden State.
The state's law is grounded on health concerns. The state of New York's repeal of a similar ban in 2016 reignited a push to do the same in New Jersey.
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