Hoboken Set To Debate ‘500-Foot’ Liquor License Law

500 foot liquor license law hoboken
Stewed Cow

A Hoboken liquor license law that’s been on the books for over two decades might be getting some big changes, and the City Council wants to hear what the public thinks about the issue.

At the last Council meeting, there was a resolution introduced that was looking to repeal Hoboken’s “500-foot rule.” The regulation code, under Hoboken’s “Alcoholic Beverages” chapter, currently states that any establishment seeking a liquor license cannot operate within 500 feet of another business that already has one.

Anybody who has ever been to Hoboken, particularly lower Washington Street and the area surrounding the PATH station, might ask how such a regulation could possibly exist when there are many bars clustered near one another in that neighborhood. It’s because the current law was actually passed in the 1990s as a response to that proliferation of bars, and any existing license at that time was grandfathered in.

But citing “changes in the business environment” and “growth and redevelopment of the city,” Councilmembers Michael Russo and Jim Doyle had co-sponsored an ordinance that would repeal the 500-foot law, although it was eventually tabled for further discussion. The change wouldn’t add to the number of liquor licenses available in Hoboken, but could allow existing BYOB restaurants that are within 500 feet of another establishment already having a liquor license the chance to acquire one of their own.

The proposed change could also benefit some newer businesses that can’t even consider getting a liquor license under the current laws. For instance, a new Trader Joe’s is opening up directly across the street from The Shepard & The Knucklehead Steakhouse and Bar. That means that the supermarket won’t be able to sell their “Two Buck Chuck” wines as they can’t operate with a liquor license due to the 500-foot rule.

But critics of the proposed change would argue that modifying the law, especially straight-up repealing it, could create more rowdy bars and noise in some neighborhoods. Two local business owners, citing unfairness to current liquor license holders, also spoke out against the ordinance when it was introduced at the meeting.

Now it’s the public’s turn. A special meeting will be held at City Hall on Monday night, September 26th that will allow the Council to hear the community’s prospective as they consider the proposed legislation. While a vote on the ordinance will not be taken at the meeting, residents seeking to weigh in on the changes should head over to 94 Washington Street at 7:00pm.


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