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Brick Creates New Liquor License Category for Theaters

Wine being poured at a bar. (Credit: Maria Eklind/ Flickr)

Wine being poured at a bar. (Credit: Maria Eklind/ Flickr)

Brick officials on Tuesday night introduced a new ordinance that would allow theaters that host live productions to obtain a liquor license to allow the selling of alcoholic beverages at performances.

“The bill amending the law was adopted in June 2023,” said Councilwoman Heather deJong, referring to an act of the legislature ceremonially signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank as part of a post-pandemic effort to spur business.

The ordinance passed on first reading by the council Tuesday does not actually award any licenses, but is an enabling ordinance that would allow the township to issue a “theater license” for $250 as long as the theater is owned by a nonprofit organization, seats between 50 and 1,000 people, and its owners or board members otherwise legally qualify as liquor license holders.

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The license mechanism would not apply to traditional commercial movie theaters. Only theaters engaged in live performances and certain “art house” films and operated as nonprofits would be eligible. Recently, Brick officials approved the first live theater facility in town to be constructed on Mantoloking Road.

The license would allow the theater – or future theaters that qualify – to serve drinks for two hours before a production, during intermission, and for two hours following the production. Smaller theaters are limited to serving post-show drinks 15 times per year.

“In these post-pandemic and yet still uncertain economic times, our nonprofits, including those that serve to bolster the arts, need every advantage we can provide,” said Senator Shirley Turner (D-Mercer) at the time the act was signed into law. “This law will assist their efforts to enrich the cultural and entertainment opportunities for their towns and neighborhoods.”

Unlike traditional plenary retail consumption licenses for bars and restaurants, theater licenses are not subject to the same population restriction, which limits one license for every 3,000 residents in a municipality, a Prohibition-era restriction that Murphy has proposed eliminating within reform efforts that have been stymied by the lobby for current licensed commercial establishments.

The theater license would cost $250 per year.

Brick’s enabling ordinance will be subject to a public hearing and second vote for final adoption at the March 25 council meeting.

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