Trenton, NJ residents won’t be able to buy booze for July 4th parties, says mayor
TRENTON — With over 100 retail alcohol licenses set to expire at the end of the month, Mayor Reed Gusciora is warning of "dire consequences."
Alcoholic beverages won't be legally sold almost anywhere within the city starting July 1, putting a damper on any plans for Independence Day celebrations. Bars, restaurants, and retailers alike will be affected.
It's the latest example of dysfunction in Trenton's politics impacting the city's residents and businesses. Gusciora blames his rivals on City Council.
"Council’s inaction is going to bring us back to the Prohibition era," said Gusciora. He added that bars, restaurants, and hospitality workers will suffer "due to Council’s indifference to the economic vitality of the city."
Council President Kathy McBride did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.
According to the mayor's office, only Council has the authority to renew licenses from the state Division of Alcohol Beverage Control. And the process should have started in April with the clerk's office sending out applications for renewal.
"That never happened due to Council’s mismanagement of the Clerk’s Office and overburdening the Clerk’s part-time replacement," Gusciora said.
The city's full-time clerk is still Michael Conlon, who the Trentonian reported has been out indefinitely on medical leave since February. His medical condition is still unknown, though he is reportedly under investigation by state and Mercer County officials.
The ABC municipal handbook appears to agree with Gusciora. It states applications need to be signed by the municipal clerk or ABC Board secretary, then require approval from the city.
"The application will be retained in a pending status awaiting receipt of the municipal resolution," it says.
But there are no Council meetings scheduled before July 1, meaning no opportunities to pass these resolutions.
For now, the only recourse available to these watering holes and other licensed businesses would be to apply for an ad interim permit.
The state approves these permits on an individual basis, meaning there is no guarantee they would all get the green light. Additionally, the business would have to pay a $75 one-time fee plus $5 for each day.
Locals will be able to drive to other nearby towns, like Hamilton, to pick up their booze. But without an ad interim permit, liquor stores will be out of luck and no bars will be able to host any intoxicating festivities.
The mayor's office said in a statement that it has reached out to the state about the problem. The state Department of Community Affairs did not immediately provide comment Wednesday.