Chaparro bill that would permit alcohol in small, live arts theatres clears assembly

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The New Jersey Assembly unanimously approved (73-0) a bill, introduced by Annette Chaparro (D-33), during yesterday’s legislative session that would permit small, live arts theatres to serve alcohol.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“I want to thank Mile Square Theatre of Hoboken for bringing this issue to my attention and encouraging the New Jersey Legislature to provide a boost to the arts community,” Chaparro said in a statement.

“Like any business, local theaters need money to keep their doors open, and I hope this legislation provides an additional revenue stream that allows them to worry less about fundraising and focus more on providing great entertainment for New Jersey residents. I also want to thank the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association for their contributions to this legislation – we want this bill to be a win for everyone.”

The bill, A-1478, would allow non-profit organizations that regularly host theatrical and/or musical productions to apply for a license authorizing them to sell alcohol during their shows, in theaters with 50 or more seats.

This would only apply as long as admission was charged for the show and the venue itself was primarily used for the aforementioned types of performances.

As long as those criteria are met, municipalities would be allowed to issue a plenary retail consumption license ⁠— also known as a “theater license” ⁠— to these organizations.

Under current law, theaters must have at least 1,000 seats to apply for a license. The bill stipulates that as long as admission is charged for the show and the venue itself was primarily used for live performances, municipalities would be able to issue a plenary retail consumption license.

“We’ve been working with the New Jersey Theatre Alliance and a few member theaters for years on this legislation and we are thrilled to see that it is moving forward,” added Artistic Director of Mile Square Theatre Chris O’Connor.

“This will not only enhance the experience for audiences that attend these smaller non-profit performance venues, but in drawing more audiences to these venues, it will bring more patrons to restaurants and other businesses that are located nearby. The theaters, which operate on narrow margins, will have one more opportunity to add to their earned income. All boats will rise with this legislation.”

The measure will now head to the state senate for further consideration.

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