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State Street: Allow beer, wine sales at all retailers, advocate says

John Holub, Retail Merchants Association president, says the current liquor license expansion is unfairly restrictive.
John Holub, Retail Merchants Association president, says the current liquor license expansion is unfairly restrictive.

While food stores are pushing for the expansion of the maximum number of liquor licenses they can hold against resistance from liquor stores, other retailers have their own take on the issue.

The New Jersey Retail Merchants Association opposes the current proposal, which would restrict expanded licenses to stores that focus on selling food. Association President John Holub wants to see all retailers able to sell beer and wine.

The current proposal is “an expansion, but it limits the expansion,” Holub said. “If you’re making the case that this is an anticompetitive, archaic law, the only true reform is to open it up to all of the businesses, not to a select few.”

National discount chains and pharmacies are among the businesses that sell wine and beer in other states.

Holub said no one is calling for an expansion in the number of licenses, but the proposal would allow those with only two licenses to buy up to 10. He said he understands the desire to limit the expansion in the number of licenses a business can hold.

“The fact that it’s limiting the number is all the more reason why it should be open to everybody,” Holub said.

Lobbying over the issue has been occurring this summer, in anticipation of a fierce battle in the fall. While liquor stores have fought off an expansion for decades, the rise to Assembly majority leader of expansion advocate Louis D. Greenwald (D-Voorhees) has liquor stores concerned.

“For a state that touts itself to be a pro-business state, to have a law like this I think really conflicts with that,” Holub said.

Coutinho foresees building boom for schools in 2013

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority board authorized the issuance of up to $425 million in school construction bonds and notes on July 30.

Issuing the bonds will be a key step for the schools, following Gov. Chris Christie’s mid-February announcement that 20 school projects would be advancing this year.
The move drew interest from Assemblyman Albert Coutinho, who said it would lead to a wave of school construction in 2013.

“It will be interesting that next year, you’ll probably have 10 to 15 schools under construction in this state,” said Coutinho (D-Newark). “Now I (could) be cynical and say, ‘Wow, what a coincidence, it’s an election year,’ but I’m not going to go there.”

It’s an issue of keen interest to the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee chairman, who first ran for the Assembly in 2007 with a focus on problems in school development.

Coutinho noted that his home neighborhood, Newark’s Ironbound, originally was scheduled to receive six new schools, since all of its six current schools are more than 100 years old. The neighborhood’s South Street Elementary School was among those whose replacement was announced by Christie in February.

The state Schools Development Authority, headed by Marc Larkins, is the successor to the embattled Schools Construction Corp., which completed a fraction of the schools approved in a multibillion dollar construction program.

National GOP figure takes aim at Christie’s business record

While Christie has received nearly unanimous backing from his fellow Republicans in Trenton, a Washington Republican activist issued a reminder last week that the party isn’t always on the same page regarding Christie’s handling of business issues.

Phil Kerpen is the president of American Commitment, an organization funding advertisements criticizing several Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate. He also is apparently not a fan of Christie, writing in a post on Politico’s website that Mitt Romney couldn’t pick Christie as his running mate “because Romney needs a VP to his right to keep enthusiasm up among core activists.”

Kerpen then focused on Christie’s business record: “Christie — who refused to join the health care lawsuits, but has supported $100 million for offshore windmills, a ban on coal plants, a ban on fracking, increased solar subsidies, a shopping center bailout, a casino bailout, seizing the value of unused gift cards, and a hospital bed tax hike — is clearly to Romney’s left.”

Kerpen is a former employee of Americans for Prosperity, whose state head, Steve Lonegan, was Christie’s former rival for the 2009 Republican gubernatorial nomination. Kerpen said Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey would be a “much better pick” for Romney.
Christie’s office declined to comment on the post.

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