An important and recurring issue for the owners of establishments providing for the sale of alcoholic beverages, or holding a liquor license, is the amount of distance that the New Jersey state regulations require the establishment to be located from schools and churches. The relevant state statute, N.J.S.A. 33:1-76, determines that the location of an establishment selling liquor may not be less than two hundred feet from a church or school.

N.J.S.A. 33:1-76 states in part that “no license shall be issued for the sale of alcoholic beverages within two hundred feet of any church or public schoolhouse or private schoolhouse for pecuniary profit.” However, the statute goes on to say that in the case of hotels, clubs, wholesalers, manufacturers and fraternal organizations which were already established prior to the time in which the school or church was built, the sale of alcohol may continue to take place on the premises. If the school or church was constructed and became operational during a time in which the premises were already licensed to sell alcoholic beverages, the prohibition on sale will not apply. Further, the governing body of the church or school in question can waive the protections of this statute until the liquor license must be renewed.

The issue of how to measure the distance was discussed in the New Jersey Administrative Review case Raritan Rd. Baptist Church v. Township of Cranford and Coachman Inn, 2 N.J.A.R. 218 (1980), wherein a New Jersey administrative law judge determined that the distance is to be measured in the amount of feet from the nearest entrance of the liquor selling establishment to the nearest entrance of the school or church. In that case a nearby road was paved and a fence demolished which separated what had been church property from the property of an establishment which sold alcohol on its premises. The church argued that this meant the liquor selling establishment’s license had to be transferred as it was now within 200 feet of a church with the opening of the paved road leading to the restaurant, whereas Coachman and Cranford Township argued that it was not within two hundred feet of the church when the distance was measured by the shortest means possible. The main issue thus became in what manner the two hundred foot distance would be measured. The court held that the distance was to be measured by the shortest route possible which a pedestrian would properly be able to walk.

If you have further questions involving issues of liquor licensing and New Jersey ABC law, we recommend that you consult an experienced New Jersey ABC/liquor license attorney who will be able to answer your questions in a thorough and timely manner.

Filed under: The Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control FAQs