The battle to allow supermarkets in the Garden State to sell liquor and beer has been a long one and it is continues as 2015 comes to a close.

Supporters said it would give consumer greater convenience and more options. Opponents said it would drive mom and pop liquor shops out of business.

LONDON - FEBRUARY 27: A shopper browses the alcohol section at a Tesco store on February 27, 2007 in London, England. Tesco is the the UK's biggest supermarket chain, with a 31.5% share of the total grocery market. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
Peter Macdiarmid, Getty Images)

“We’re trying to bring New Jersey out of the Dark Ages when it comes to liquor licensing laws. They haven’t changed since 1961,” said A.J. Sabath, executive director of the Retailers for Responsible Liquor Licensing Coalition. “What we hope is to provide additional competition. Consumers want it. Polling indicates that customers want choice.”

The poll Sabath referenced is a 2010 survey conducted by Monmouth University. It showed that 76 percent of respondents who regularly purchased alcohol supported allowing supermarkets to sell it.

“It’s been over a decade-long battle and we’re just trying to inject some common sense into the state’s liquor licensing process to provide consumers greater choice,” Sabath explained.

There is legislation (A-2002) that would to gradually raise to 10 a current two-license limit imposed on grocery stores by state law. It’s sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Voorhees). Sabath said 45 other states allow beer or wine sales in retail food stores, but New Jersey law prohibits most grocery stores from selling these products.

A 2011 study conducted by the Food Marketing institute indicated that modernizing the liquor licensing system in New Jersey would benefit the economy. Among the findings were:

  • Allowing supermarkets to sell beer and liquor could create over 275 full-time equivalent jobs paying as much as $12.6 million in wages.
  • The State of New Jersey could collect $6.7 million in additional sales and excise tax revenues, and $3.6 million in business and employment taxes without raising tax rates.

"If changing the current law would increase investment in our economy and the quality of life for our community then why did A&P, which had 20-plus liquor licenses go out of business? This is nothing more than an attempt to allow for big box stores and their out of state corporations to put our local licensees out of business. We have already invested in our communities, we employ members of our communities and we will continue to fight on behalf of New Jersey based small businesses," said a spokesman for the New Jersey Liquor Store Alliance.

Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at Follow him on twitter at @kevinmcardle1.

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