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Senate passes Atlantic City public drinking law, awaits Murphy's OK

Senate passes Atlantic City public drinking law, awaits Murphy's OK

Open container Atlantic City

Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation Friday that permanently allows for the public consumption of alcohol within the Atlantic City Tourism District.

The state Senate unanimously approved a bill Thursday that would permanently allow for the public consumption of alcohol on Atlantic City’s Boardwalk and other tourist areas.

The bill goes to Gov. Phil Murphy, who must sign the legislation for it to become law. The Assembly approved the bill in June.

State lawmakers and local officials have long stated that permitting adults of legal age to purchase, transport and drink alcoholic beverages in designated public areas of Atlantic City would give the seaside resort a much-needed economic boost. Proponents often cite other U.S. tourist destinations where public alcohol consumption is permitted, such as Las Vegas and New Orleans, as successful models.

The open container legislation was sponsored by Atlantic County’s three representatives, Republican state Sen. Chris Brown and Democratic Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato.

“With our bars and restaurants relying on outdoor dining and takeout to make ends meet and keep our families employed, this bipartisan bill enhancing our guests’ vacation experience will help our mom-and-pop hospitality businesses get through this challenging time and thrive down the road,” Brown said Thursday.

The public consumption of alcoholic beverages on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, the nonresidential areas of Gardner’s Basin and the Orange Loop business district that includes the beach blocks of St. James Place, New York Avenue and Tennessee Avenue is a temporary experiment this summer. Mayor Marty Small Sr. issued an executive city order in June permitting open containers as bars and restaurants struggle to survive business restrictions caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic. The city’s order expires in November or whenever coronavirus-related restrictions are lifted by Gov. Phil Murphy, whichever comes first.

Republican mayoral candidate and former chairman of the local alcohol control board Thomas Forkin has pushed for an open container law in Atlantic City for nearly a decade.

The state legislation tasks the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority with defining the parameters of an open container zone in Atlantic City, where alcoholic beverages can be sold, consumed and transported by people of legal drinking age. It further requires the CRDA to hold a public hearing on the merits of establishing the open container zone.

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Staff Writer

I cover Atlantic City government and the casino industry since joining The Press in early 2018. I formerly worked as a politics & government reporter for NJ Herald and received the First Amendment: Art Weissman Memorial NJPA Award two years in a row.

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