How to Get a Liquor License in New Jersey

by Contributing Writer; Updated September 26, 2017
Barmans arms pulling a pint of beer

Liquor laws in New Jersey limit the number of liquor licenses granted based on population; a given municipality may issue only one license for on-premise consumption (bar or restaurant) per 3,000 residents and one for off-premise consumption (liquor store) per 7,500 residents. Thus, few new licenses are issued. But if you want to open a restaurant or other establishment in the state that will serve alcoholic beverages, it is possible to get your license.

Step 1

Decide what type of license you want. If you're interested in opening a restaurant or bar, you'll seek what is called a Plenary Retail Consumption Liquor License. If you are opening a liquor store, you will need a Plenary Retail Distribution License. These licenses are subject to population restrictions, but other types--for theaters, private clubs and hotels--are not.

Step 2

Consider location. It's a prime consideration for any business, of course, but the population guidelines make it even more significant for liquor licenses in New Jersey. A city with a growing population offers the best, if not the only, chance to apply for a new license. Older communities might have more than their share of liquor establishments because of a "grandfather clause" that allows businesses in existence before passage of the 1948 legislation to remain in operation, even if they exceed the limit.

Step 3

Contact the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board for the city or town where you want to establish your business o find out if a new license is an option or, a more likely prospect, whether an existing one is available for purchase.

Step 4

Contact the current owner of the license for sale and negotiate a deal. Once you've reached a deal for transfer of ownership, file a person-to-person transfer application with the board.

Step 5

Publish a notice of the impending sale in a local newspaper. Wait for the city to conduct a background investigation on you and the purchase you are proposing.

Step 6

Pay the purchase price and fees upon approval. The annual renewal fee for a Plenary Retail Consumption Liquor License in New Jersey was $200 in 2010.


  • If your application is not approved, you may have a BYOB arrangement for your restaurant.

    Some organizations specialize in selling liquor licenses, sometimes at bargain prices, and you can often view their listings online (see Resources).


  • Renew a New Jersey liquor license annually, effective July 1. Summer seasonal licenses must be renewed by May 1. If your renewal is late, your license will lapse and you cannot conduct alcoholic beverage activity.

Photo Credits

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