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May 08, 2009
Justices limit bars' liability in drunken driving
Court dismisses suit by the family of man killed in'03 Parkway crash


New Jersey bar owners can't be sued for allowing customers to drive away drunk if they weren't the ones who served them alcohol, the state Supreme Court unanimously ruled yesterday.

The decision overturned a state appeals court ruling that bars were responsible for their patrons, on and off the road.

"Every license holder, whether a diner or tavern, would be potentially liable if a person ate nothing more than chicken wings on the premises, but had consumed alcohol earlier off-premises to the point of intoxication," Justice Barry Albin wrote for the court.

The family of James Hamby, a 21-year old passenger killed in a 2003 crash on the Garden State Parkway, now can't bring charges against the C-View Inn in Cape May City. Frank Nesbitt, the 19-year-old driver, was found to be heavily intoxicated after the accident, but a lower-court judge decided there wasn't any evidence the C-View served him alcohol and dismissed the case.

Nesbitt's alcohol level was 0.199 percent after the crash -- more twice the legal limit of 0.08. He pleaded guilty to second-degree vehicular homicide, was sentenced to five years in prison and is now under supervision by a parole officer.

Rudolph Westmoreland, the Atlantic City-based lawyer for Hamby's family, said they received $100,000 from insurance when the case was settled.

Terry King, the C-View Inn's lawyer, said the bar was "elated" with the decision. He said the state appeals court ruling had "caused alarm" with every business owner who was concerned about being held responsible for customers who came into their store or restaurant already drunk.

"That upset the balance, if you will; this decision restores the balance," King said.

The New Jersey Restaurant Association did not immediately return calls for comment.

According to court documents, Nesbitt of Dennis Township and Hamby of Upper Township had been drinking with friends and then went to the C-View Inn, where they frequently hung out.

While waiters at the bar said they didn't serve Nesbitt alcohol and weren't aware he was drunk, Nesbitt had ordered two soft drinks that Hamby spiked with rum, under the table.

A lower court judge ruled the C-View was not responsible for Hamby's decision to "secretly serve" Nesbitt alcohol they had brought into the bar. The justices reaffirmed that decision.

Westmoreland noted taverns already are responsible for patrons who drink too much while they are there.

"If you served me alcohol 'til I was drunk as a skunk and I walked out and was hit by a bus, you're liable for that," Westmoreland said. "You should at least do something or have me call a cab, but you just can't serve me 'til I'm skunked and say 'It's your problem, get out of here.'"

Statehouse Bureau reporter Mary Fuchs may be reached at (609) 989-0341 or

Reprinted from the Star Ledger

April 09, 2009
Press Release Contact: Fred Barnes, President
New Jersey Licensed Beverage Association


TRENTON – The New Jersey Licensed Beverage Association, representing bars, taverns, and restaurants in New Jersey, reacted to the signing of recent legislation to “ease the regulatory burden” of the “struggling” casinos by asking that the Governor do something to “ease their pain” as well.

“New Jersey’s downtown small bars, taverns, and restaurants are on the bleeding edge of an economic disaster, much of it caused by unnecessary and untimely government regulations that have caused business to decline by 30% and some to go out of business,” according to Fred Barnes, President, New Jersey Licensed Beverage Association.

“Our association recognizes the economic importance of the casino industry, but the small businesses in the hospitality industry are also important and in need of some relief,” said Barnes

“Enactment of New Jersey’s “no-smoking” ban; the enactment of “family leave; the new Fire Code regulations, estimated to cost many businesses $30,000 to $50,000 in order to be in compliance; as well as the Governor’s proposal to increase the excise tax on wine and distilled spirits, has and will simply be devastating to our industry through additional lost sales and unnecessary costs,” said President Barnes.

“Please Governor, can’t you do something to ease our pain?”

FEBRUARY 9, 2009

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, on behalf of the New Jersey Licensed Beverage Association, I would like to express our strong opposition to S-2266 - legislation that would permit municipalities to impose an assessment for costs and attorney fees on a licensee where they have been cited for a violation of a statute, regulation or municipal ordinance; or an assessment for costs that the municipality determines when there is a settlement agreement by both parties.

This legislation doesn’t just deal with a “license suspension”, it allows municipalities to assess a fee for any violation set forth under Title 33. Under this bill, not only does a licensee have to pay an annual license fee to the municipality, but they will now have to pay the municipality whatever fines, attorney fees, and payment of any costs incurred during an investigation or prosecution, while at the same time, pay for their own attorney fees, and costs associated with an appeal!

This bill is an invitation to mischief, especially in light of the current economy and budget shortfalls at all levels. This bill would provide a strong and perverse incentive for municipalities to use this law as a revenue generator in order to balance their budgets off the backs of these small businesses.

I’m sure you have heard, your neighborhood bars and taverns are on life support. One reason for that is certainly the economy, but it is also because they like all small businesses have been choked to death with regulatory mandates, and other costs associated with doing business in New Jersey.

We strongly oppose this legislation and urge you to vote NO.


NJLBA, together with NJRA fought until the 11th hour to obtain changes in the new Fire Code Regulations, and pleading with Commissioner Doria of DCA to grant a 6 month extension on the effective date in order that we could seek changes to the definition of “nightclub” either through the regulatory or legislative process. Late last evening we learned that our request had been denied.

We anticipate that these new regulations will cause a great financial burden on some of you, especially at a time when sales, profits and employment are as bad as they have ever been in New Jersey. Here’s why!

  • The definition of “nightclub” is so broad that it may apply to many “eating and drinking” establishments with an occupancy load of 100 - down from the current 300. Your local fire official will determine your occupancy load, based on a formula set forth in the regulations.
  • If you are determined to be a “nightclub” you will then have to - Install an automatic fire detection system which is tied to the performance sound system and the house light – an unnecessary financial burden;
  • You will also be required to install an automatic sprinkler system which shall be tied to the sound system and house lights – another great cost;
  • The “egress” requirements set forth in the regulations may require structural changes, which may be impossible in some cases; and
  • The “grandfather” provisions applicable to buildings constructed under the 1977 Uniform Construction Code has been removed from the Fire Code.

What You can Expect From your Local Fire Official

  • They should be visiting your establishment to discuss the new Fire Code and advising you if you fall into the category of “nightclub” and advising you as to what you need to do to comply. (Please let NJLBA know the results of this visit! And let your legislators know that you are “mad as hell” about these burdensome regulations, especially at a time when everyone is so hard hit financially.)

NJLBA, together with NJRA, will continue to seek changes in these regulations, either through the legislative process, or through changes in the regulations. WE WILL NEED YOUR HELP!

For Immediate Release
February 4, 2009

Contact: Barbara McConnell
Legislative Representative, NJLBA


TRENTON - Fred Barnes, President, New Jersey Licensed Beverage Association, representing bars, taverns, and restaurants in New Jersey, today urged Governor Corzine to legalize video lottery as a way to generate new revenues which could be used to help balance New Jersey’s budget; provide property tax relief; or tuition relief for families who are unable to send their children to college.

“We have been urging New Jersey for years to enact Video Lottery which could potentially generate revenues of up to $600 million dollars, depending on the number of locations in which they are established. But, the casino industry has vigorously opposed any expansion of gambling beyond Atlantic City’s borders,” Barnes said.

“Now, Governor Rendell in Pennsylvania, has called for an expansion of video poker from racetracks to bars, taverns, restaurants, and clubs where he expects to raise over $550 million annually to help with tuition assistance, as well as give a boost to the hospitality industry in Pennsylvania.”

“In a discussion paper prepared by NJLBA in 2002 and submitted to the Governor’s office, it was found that 35 states currently have some form of legalized gambling, including traditional slot machines, video poker, bingo, casinos, racetracks, and VLTs in bars, restaurants or other licensed establishments. What has driven the increase in gambling venues has been the need to derive new revenues in states that are hard pressed for money, and are reluctant to raise taxes. The economic downturn has been horrific for state budgets, and this has helped push gambling into a mainstream form of entertainment,” said Barnes.

In 2006, Governor Corzine did say that “competition from nearby states means New Jersey should at least consider VLTs as an option since Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware are installing gaming machines.” But, the casino industry was successful in squelching the idea.

“Perhaps New Jersey has already missed the boat on this issue, but we urge Governor Corzine to follow Governor Rendell’s lead and call for VLTs in New Jersey.


On January 13, 2009, the New Jersey Legislature will return to Trenton to begin their 2009 session, NJLBA will make sure that your voice is heard on some very important issues.

With your help, we have been able to sometimes keep “bad” legislation from happening, but we are always there to inform legislators how certain legislative and regulatory proposals will affect your business! A few of the issues that we think are a high priority for you in the coming year, as well as some we have fought this past year are:

  • Paid Family Leave - While this legislation has already been signed into law, requiring employers with two or more employees to provide “family leave” for their employees, NJBLA strongly opposes this legislation. Currently, the law is about to go into effect; however, over 7 bills have been introduced to postpone the enactment of this law because of the downturn in the economy.
  • Special Liquor Licenses - NJLBA continues to oppose any attempt to grant a “special” liquor license for economic development project such as the Xanadu Project for $2,000! However, NJLBA supports legislation that would require the issuance of a special license for certain economic development project, provided the purchaser pays two-and-a-half the times of market value, and 25% of the purchase value would be distributed equally among existing licensees. We were instrumental in crafting such legislation which has now been signed into law.
  • New Jersey Fire Code Regulations - On February 2009, the new Fire Code Regulations that will go into effect will be costly and onerous to your business. NJLBA has continued to work with the Department of Community Affairs to obtain some relief, and believe the effective date should be rescinded during these hard economic times.
  • “Smart Container” - A-121- legislation which is nothing more than a “bottle bill” re-incarnated. NJLBA testified against this legislation and we are now hopeful that this issue is on the “back burner” and will not be considered during this session.
  • Ignition Interlock Devices -A-3073 - Strongly oppose legislation that would make mandatory the use of ignition interlock devices for all drunk driving offenses. This legislation is expected to be considered in 2009, and NJLBA believes legislation should only apply to “repeat” offenders.
  • Two Plenary Retail Distribution License Limit - S-1608 - Oppose passage of legislation that would remove the two plenary retail distribution license limit for supermarkets.
  • Liability Insurance - Strongly oppose legislation - A-3514 - that would impose liability insurance requirements on alcoholic beverage licensees and provide penalties for occupancy and fire code violations.
  • Wine Tastings - S-2098/A-3042 - Oppose legislation which would revise the law concerning wine tastings and samplings to include distilled spirits.

Please support NJLBA with your Membership. We are fighting hard for you in Trenton!

January 8, 2009

Honorable Joseph Doria
Department of Community Affairs
101 S. Broad Street
Trenton, NJ 08625-0800

Dear Commissioner Doria:

On behalf of the New Jersey Licensed Beverage Association, I am writing you once again to plead the case of our members - especially the small bars and taverns - who will be severely harmed economically when the Department’s new Uniform Fire Code goes into effect on February 5, 2009.

At the time these new changes to the Fire Code were proposed we submitted comments, expressing our concern as to the economic hardship the new amendments would cause the small bars, taverns, and restaurants that we represent. Since the adoption of these new amendments, our concerns over costs have only heightened because it is certain they will result in great economic hardship and the demise of many small establishments.

Even your Department admitted that the cost to retrofit an existing building to comply with these new rules could be significant! The problem lies in the definition of “nightclub” which is so broad that it will apply to virtually all “eating and drinking” establishments with an occupancy load of 100. These establishments will now have to install an automatic fire detection system which shall be tied to the performance sound system and to the house lights - an unnecessary financial burden. They are also required to install an automatic sprinkler system which shall be tied to the sound system and house lights – another great cost. The egress requirements set forth in the regulations will also require not only structural changes, which may be impossible in some cases. And, removing the “grandfather” provision applicable to buildings constructed under the 1977 Uniform Construction Code is unfair and will cause many to go out of business.

Expectations for sales, profits and employment are as bad as they have ever been in New Jersey. Businesses, consumers, employers and employees have had just about all they can bear. This is especially true for small businesses.

Can’t we please make some administrative changes to these new Fire Code Regulations that will offer some relief to small businesses; or can’t we simply postpone the implementation of the amendments until better economic times?

Kindest regards.


Fred Barnes, President
Barbara McConnell, Legislative Representative

cc: Honorable Joseph Roberts
     Honorable Stephen Sweeney

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