A bill that would create a new class of liquor license allowing food stores to sell kosher liquor would devastate the packaged goods industry, according to opponents of the bill who testified before the committee.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. James Beach, (D-6) would allow any store that has on file with the state Division of Consumer Affairs a disclosure that the premises are under rabbinical or other recognized religious supervision to sell kosher wines and liquors.
According to the testimony, the bill arose after complaints from the Cherry Hill Jewish community that local stores do not carry enough kosher wine.
Joseph Berkowitz, kosher brand manager for a liquor distributor, said adoption of the new license would be catastrophic to local liquor stores. Berkowitz testified that nearly all hard liquor and most beer are kosher, which could give rise to entire liquor stores opening in kosher food stores, putting liquor retailers at risk.
Berkowitz said his company and others provide an extensive array of kosher wines to retailers and called the shortage “a non-existent problem.”
Other opponents of the bill, which include representatives of the retail liquor industry, agreed and said there are other solutions to the problem, if in fact it exists. There are several so-called pocket liquor licenses available in South Jersey. Anyone could come forward to open a kosher liquor store, rather than creating a new class of license to compete with existing retailers.
Committee members were receptive to the testimony.
This seems like a harmless bill when you read the title,” said Sen. Nicholas Sacco. “It seems to have too many side effects,” Sacco said. “Possibly the sponsor can work with everyone concerned to come up with a bill that does work.”
The bill would carry a license fee of between $31 and $63, far cheaper than the cost of a retail liquor license. That low cost would tremendously devalue a traditional liquor license in the state, opponents of the measure said.
The hearing was for testimony only and committee members did not vote on the measure.