New Jersey often is the epitome of the old joke — it wants things in the worst way, and that’s how it gets them.
For years, Atlantic City and state officials have known that allowing visitors to the casino resort to move about with alcoholic drinks in hand was something they would enjoy and encourage their patronage. They had plenty of examples of other tourist destinations already providing this modest amenity, including Las Vegas, New Orleans, Nashville and Key West.
There seemed to be no reason why Atlantic City couldn’t just allow this tourism enhancement on its own. Las Vegas and Savannah, Georgia, did so with local government ordinances. New Jersey, like Nevada and Georgia, has no state law regarding the carrying or drinking of an alcoholic beverage in public (as opposed to inside a vehicle, which is routinely prohibited).
Atlantic City crafted an ordinance in 2016 to allow people to carry a drink from a casino or beach bar onto the Boardwalk. But before it could enact it, state officials convinced city officials to delay while they checked possibly related state regulations at their leisure.
Three years of leisure later, the state’s requirements for carrying a drink on the Atlantic City Boardwalk or a nearby street are clear enough that local legislators have been able to write a bill to do what others have done with a simple ordinance. S3502 is sponsored by Sens. Bob Andrzejczak, Chris Brown and James Beach, and is expected to be matched with an Assembly version by Vince Mazzeo and John Armato.
It will take 7½ pages of new New Jersey law to codify this synopsis from the bill: “Allows alcoholic beverages to be consumed outdoors in Atlantic City Tourism District.”
An Atlantic City ordinance probably would have sufficed, but the bill designates that the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority determine the “open container area.” Even if the city could have specified that, having it in state law ensures that the CRDA will retain ultimate control over carrying drinks in public — in the district that the state created, in the city it manages and seeks to revive.
That’s fine. Just get it done, preferably in time for summer. Several years have been wasted already, three since the benefits of and support for open containers were apparent.
Meanwhile, enjoy the poetic justice of New Jersey itself being hobbled by its own excessive zeal for regulation.