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Jan 5, 2011 03:12 AM


Saw this WSJ article and had a mixed reaction... I grew up here, so it never occurred to me to chafe at the state's liquor laws. I've never based my decisions on where to eat on whether they have a liquor license or not. What do other NJ CH'ers think?


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  1. It's a very important part of my decision where to eat. Since wine is a major component of my dining experiences, I much prefer a BYOB. What I chafe at is paying $8 and up for half a glass of mediocre wine. I think we've got it pretty good here in NJ, I can't see why we should tinker with the law.

    1. If I had it my way, every restaurant would be BYO. What locals however don't get is the fact that we are so spoiled out here, not in NJ, but in Philly, and a lot of PA for that matter.

      For us, eating out is for Friday and Saturday night, and although we don't go to BYO's 100% of the time, I would guess that the number is between 80 and 90%. Like bropaul, I don't like paying top dollar for a glass of swill. And with so many AWESOME BYO's within an hour, why should we?

      For us, wine is more than a passion, it's a way of life! In all seriousness though, we ARE truly blessed to have so many BYO's here in New Jersey. I know a lot of friends in California who are envious at the fact that can bring our own wine to dinner. There are however several restaurants out there where they can do they same, but they are getting hit with $20-$75 corkage fees per bottle. No thanks! -mJ

      9 Replies
      1. re: njfoodies

        Same thoughts as you and bropaul. Preference is BYOB and happy to have so many great local options. Also willing to pay a few dollars more for great food and service if that keeps the BYOB's in biz.

        Now if we could only change the law to allow direct shipping of bulk orders of wines to our NJ homes!

        1. re: Foody4life

          I agree 100% on paying a few dollars more for good food considering I am saving $50 plus on being able to bring my own vino.

          For for direct shipping, that would indeed be nice! I have found a way around that however with offsite storage. The storage facility I use has an office and shipping address based in New York at Penn Plaza, however, their climate controlled storage facility is located just minutes from ther Meadowlands. At a cost of just over $100 a year for a 3 case contract, it is a no brainer. It also works out as storage is limited at our house between our cellar and climate controlled wine fridges, so I currently am on a 10 case contract there. If it weren't for this facility, I wouldn't be able to receive some of my favorite wines: Kosta Browne, Sea Smoke, Scarecrow, etc. Drop me an e-mail from our blgo if you're interested in using the facility. I highly recommend them, and their facility is just what I am looking for with great customer service.

          Back on topic, I can think of at least one BYO that is busier than a lot of the local non BYO's, and that is Oliver-A Bistro. Weekend nights it is next to impossible to get in without a reservation, and I think that is great. The same could also be true however with Toscano Ristorante (non BYO) in Bordentown. Sure, both of these restaurants are small and quaint, and may not have a lot of tables compared to other restaurants in the area.

          For those however who are not partial to BYO or non BYO, my question to you is the following. When you go out to dinner, what is your beverage of choice? Are you a wine drinker? Beer drinker? Cocktail drinker? Or do you not drink alcohol at all? -mJ

          1. re: njfoodies

            I find the enforcement of DWI statutes so strictly enforced and sometimes predatory in NJ, that drinking even 1 cocktail or a full pour of wine could possibly lead to a very expensive not to mention embarrassing traffic stop that it is easier to take the train into NYC,dine,imbibe responsibly and still make it back home by cab cheaper and less of a hassle than actually a night out in NJ.Obviously this is not always possible for all NJ residents so in the event I am not the designated driver, I choose Beer over wine simply because most NJ restaurants that offer a wine list just seems to be lacking in quality over price.

            1. re: njfoodies

              For those however who are not partial to BYO or non BYO, my question to you is the following. When you go out to dinner, what is your beverage of choice?

              Not beverage.....but Beverages, plural. Let's say it's been a hot day and I've just completed a round of golf......now we are off to the restaurant. I may want to start with a club soda, a bottle of Pellegrino or a section of beers. If I'm not in the mood to seriously drink, or unsure of what I'm in the mood for, I like the option of starting off slow with an aperitif mixed with club soda or citrus juice, or I may like to start and prefer a vodka over ice. During dinner at a Steak house, I may want to only have 4-5 ounces of a nice red wine....not any more. After dinner, I may like to sit and relax over some Cognac, a cordial or a Single Malt Scotch.....It's all about the enjoyment of the evening and the choices and options available. I'm not looking to make detours to the liquor store and I'm not looking to save dollars.


              The permalink above will give you a little more insight into the subject and history of NJ Liquor Laws...... and the reactions of others, pro and con.

              1. re: fourunder

                I was just about to reply to NJfoodies before I read your post Fourunder.
                I'm glad I didn't because you said exactly what I was going to.

                I like variety.
                I like to start off with a cocktail or a beer before choosing a wine, and like you, I like an after dinner port or Cognac.
                Sometimes, I have no idea what I what to drink, so I ask for suggestions to pair with the food I am eating.
                I like to drink sake when I am eating sushi; my dh hates sake, and I am not going to drink a full bottle. We would have to purchase 3 different types of alcohol to carry into the sushi joint!

                I live in Jersey City, and we tend to avoid the BYOB's.

              2. re: njfoodies

                regarding BYO food pricing, Blue Point Grill is our local fav.

                You'll pay a premium for dining here, but the place has been absolutely packed (nightly) since opening 14+? yrs ago. They doubled in size a while ago and expanded to the sidewalks in summer. I'll gladly pay top dollar for their excellent fish and tote my own sav blanc or chardonnay.

                Being a BYO doesn't appear to be hurting their profitability. It's also a major plus and convenience for them to have 2 wine shops within a block or two.

                If more BYOs would focus on quality over quantity, I'd expect profits would follow.

            2. re: njfoodies

              Just FYI, there are not "several" restaurants in California that allow you to BYO -- virtually all restaurants in California allow you to bring in wine (provided it's a wine they don't offer) and pay a corkage fee, which is usually less than $25 (but may be more in very high-end restaurants). Often the corkage fee is waived if you also buy a bottle of their list. This compensates them for the loss of wine sales and for providing service and stemware.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                You are correct Ruth, but what I am referring to is true BYO's where you don't have to pay corkage. I should have worded it differently. -mJ

                1. re: njfoodies

                  The situation is different in California because almost every restaurant has a liquor license, and because just the opposite of states that allow BYO, BYO is illegal in California unless the restaurant has a liquor license (although there are some restaurants -- mostly ethnic where wine isn't part of the culture or where alcohol is forbidden -- that turn a blind eye to that). Thus, the only place where you can legally BYO is a place where when you do so you are depriving them of sales revenue.

                  It's really a different attitude towards what a liquor license means. In states that tightly control the number of licenses it's really about controlling the sale of alcohol (for economic or moral reasons), while in California it's generally about controlling the places in which alcohol is permitted. For example, the licensing board might deny a license in an area that has too many liquor stores and a problem with alcohol-related crime, or they might deny a license next to a school (it used to be illegal to serve alcohol within a mile of a college campus). Thus, allowing people to bring their own would defeat the purpose of the restriction.

            3. Having the choice has advantages for consumers. For business owners, not so much.

              While I occasionally enjoy BYO restaurants for a casual meal, I tend to prefer full-service restaurants. Restaurants that serve swill aren't serving very good food for the most part, and don't get my business.

              4 Replies
              1. re: tommy

                Tommy. What are your thoughts on the argument that because NJ's liquor license are so expensive and hard to get, restaurants in this state tend to lag behind it's counterparts in NYC in food quality,innovation and scope simply because there are few liquor profits to off set food costs?

                  1. re: tommy

                    Would a modified beer/wine license made available at a reduced cost make a significant difference in the short term in food innovation and quality,or would it take several years to convince owner/operators and even more importantly, diners of this?

                    1. re: Duppie

                      I suspect any change in perception and business models would take some time.

              2. From a food (and drink) geek's perspective, the best change to NJ law would be to grant a liquor license, at a modest fee, to any establishment that requests one. A cap on corkage fees would be the necessary supplement. Nevertheless, given the revenue generation (at both the municipal and back room level) resulting from the tight, local control of booze, I think we're more likely to see our governor shovelling snow then any statutory changes.

                5 Replies
                1. re: MGZ

                  I would have to agree with you, and my musings of opening a small, casual "joint" in NJ will have to remain just that...A muse.

                  1. re: Duppie

                    Alot of great small restaurants (and some big ones) are scraping by these days in terms of cash flow. Adding beer and wine would probably give most of these restaurants at least a little extra cushion to be able to stay open. When you can go to NYC and every deli, bodega, pizzeria, and corner store has beer and wine, what is the big deal really? Nobody is proposing any changes to the DWI laws, nobody is proposing irresponsibility. Go two states down I-95 or one over on 78, and you can buy all the beer you want from gas stations!

                    1. re: coldsolderjoint

                      IMHO the dearth of good restaurants in NJ is not only because of the arcane liquor laws and the inability for small restaurateurs to maximize potential profits but also a manifestation of townships law enforcement using DWI statutes to create much needed revenue. More so than surrounding states. I am aware that there is much disagreement on several points ie:restaurant quality,drunk driving,protecting liquor license investments.but in a state where for the most part one relies on a car to get around, I consider it valid points.

                      1. re: Duppie

                        A point to consider in this discussion is whether many of the restaurants with liquor licenses could make it financially as a BYOB. With food prices being as high as they are, I'm sure there is very little margin that can be made on food sales alone.

                        1. re: bgut1

                          Honestly ,I would guess that most would find it difficult to clear a significant profit without the liquor revenue. Thus the need to protect their expensive and hard won license against any change in legislation to allow limited beer/wine sales in smaller restaurants.

                2. I don't agree that not having a license affects the quality of the restaurants... Westchester County, just across the river, is in an analogous restaurant situation. Very similar demographics to Bergen county, NJ. Lots of complaints on the NY State board moaning the dearth of good restaurants, yet, there seems to be a similar distribution of good and bad in both counties. And every restaurant in Westchester serves liquor, except maybe 0.5% due to a waiting period for the license.

                  I think the NJ-Westchester restaurant comparison knocks the air out of the idea that licensing everyone will make for a better quality of restaurants.

                  What it would do, is stop folks from bring their excellent Chateauneuf or other favorite that would be 3-4x higher if sold at the restaurant. It improves the ability to select your wine, and reduces the cost to the diner significantly. Win-win.

                  You just can't compare suburban restaurants to NYC ones, either. And the reasons they are better in the city have little to do with liquor licenses.