Ramping up enforcement of COVID-19 orders as the virus surges in New Jersey, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (“ABC”) announced on December 11, 2020 they are seeking to suspend the liquor licenses of 10 New Jersey bars and restaurants accused of violating the heightened restrictions placed on eating and drinking establishments by Governor Murphy last month.
The announcement of charges comes amid a statewide ABC enforcement campaign to ensure its licensees are complying with the Governor’s Executive Order No. 194 (2020) (“EO 194”), which, among other things, imposes a cessation of indoor food and beverage services between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., and prohibits patrons from being seated at an indoor bar at all times.
The restrictions were imposed by Governor Murphy in an effort to reduce the sustained close contact that results from patrons seated at indoor bar areas.
Since EO 194 took effect on November 12, 2020, teams of investigators from ABC, the Division of Criminal Justice, and local law enforcement agencies have been carrying out inspection sweeps of bars and restaurants statewide to enforce compliance and protect public health. The charges announced today, which carry a minimum 10-day suspension for each licensee, represent the first enforcement actions issued in the statewide compliance campaign. More charges are expected.
“It gives us no pleasure to take these actions, but we’re in the midst of a pandemic and we need everyone in this state to do their part,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Results of our enforcement sweeps thus far demonstrate that the majority of licensees are following the Governor’s orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Those who flout curfews, seating restrictions, face covering mandates, and other mitigation measures will face consequences.”
ABC has led investigations resulting in nearly 500 random inspections of bars and restaurants to ensure compliance with the restrictions imposed under EO 194, and with other COVID-19 protocols required under prior Executive Orders.
Nearly 90 percent of the establishments inspected were found to be in compliance.
The COVID-19-related charges announced today stem from violations of Executive Orders requiring establishments to prohibit seating patrons at indoor bars; cease serving food and alcohol indoors at 10 p.m.; limit the number of patrons allowed in indoor areas to 25 percent of the establishment’s indoor capacity; enforce face covering requirements for patrons and employees; prohibit the consumption of food and alcohol by patrons who are not seated at a table; maintain a six-foot minimum distance between dining tables; and enforce social distancing among employees and patrons.
Charges have been issued against the entities holding liquor licenses for the following establishments:
- Eddy’s Bar & Liquors, Bayonne. Cited for allowing patrons to sit at the bar and for failing to enforce face covering requirements. Penalty sought: 15-day suspension.
- Wicked Wolf, Hoboken. Cited for allowing patrons to sit at the bar. Penalty sought: 10-day suspension.
- Reilly’s Bar & Grill, Kearny. Cited for violating 10 p.m. curfew, allowing patrons to consume food/drink while not seated, and exceeding occupancy limits. Penalty sought: 30-day suspension.
- Graystone Inn, Little Falls. Cited for allowing patrons to sit at the bar, and exceeding occupancy limits on two separate occasions. Penalty sought: 40-day suspension.
- George Street Ale House, New Brunswick. Cited for allowing patrons to sit at the bar, and failing to enforce social distancing and face covering requirements. Penalty sought: 25-day suspension.
- Black Betty’s Saloon, Sayreville. Cited for allowing patrons to sit at the bar, and failing to enforce social distancing and face covering requirements. Also cited for allowing lewd activity on premises. Penalty sought: 70-day suspension.
- 30 Strikes, Cited for violating 10 p.m. curfew. Penalty sought: 10-day suspension.
- Jalapenos Bar and Grill, Gloucester City. Cited for allowing patrons to sit at the bar, and failing to enforce face covering requirements (second offense). Penalty sought: 20-day suspension.
- 814 South Pub & Kitchen, Somerdale. Cited for violating 10 p.m. curfew, failing to maintain a six-foot distance between tables, and failing to enforce face covering requirements. Penalty sought: 25-day suspension.
- B&B Saloon, Atlantic City. Cited for allowing patrons to sit at the bar, exceeding occupancy limits, and failing to enforce social distancing and face covering requirements. Also cited for allowing alcohol to be consumed beyond the licensed premises, hindering an inspection, employing a criminally disqualified individual, and violating conditions imposed on the license after a shooting left two people dead last month. Penalty sought: 115-day suspension.
“ABC will continue to crisscross the state doing surprise inspections of bars and restaurants to identify and hold accountable those operating in violation of the restrictions in place to protect public health and safety,” said James B. Graziano, Director of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control. “The majority of our licensees are complying with these commonsense measures. We will not allow our law-abiding licensees to be put at an economic disadvantage by a rogue few who think they are above ABC regulations and the laws of our State.”
Since March, ABC has taken enforcement action more than 200 times in response to COVID-19-related violations by licensees. Those actions have delivered warnings, and sought fines, license suspensions, and license revocations.