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HOPEWELL: Committee to revisit alcohol in public parks rule

Hopewell Township officials may soon allow alcohol, specifically beer and wine, to be served on a limited basis in public spaces like Woolsey Park.

At the Hopewell Township Committee meeting Monday night, Committeewoman Kristin McLaughlin proposed a resolution to allow alcohol to be served at events in community parks as a means to bring in revenue.

“I moved here from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; they do festivals on a [weekend] basis,” she said. “It’s something that brings people out of their homes and brings them together and I’m looking to see if we can broaden the appeal.”

McLaughlin noted that Woolsey Park is close to becoming a centerpiece of the community, adding that she was interested in the idea of bringing events residents can look forward to from week to week.

In Robbinsville, the committeewoman said, the governing body there adopts a “single event exemption” resolution, as opposed to rewriting the ordinance that says alcohol is not legal in the parks.

According to Township Attorney Steven Goodell, Essex County allows alcohol to be served in its parks, whereas Mercer County parks allow alcohol to be served only with a permit for special events.

In Princeton, alcohol distribution and consumption is also prohibited in local parks, except “in connection with an organized function or social affair for which express prior permission has been received in writing from the governing body and the requisite permit obtained from the Director of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control,” as detailed in Article II, Section 16-6 of Princeton’s public ordinances.

Goodell said existing ordinances within Hopewell Township prohibit the possession and distribution of alcohol in the parks. Regulations against public intoxication also are on the books.

That being said, Goodell explained to the committee that there is a power to change that, as alcohol is regulated on a state level.

According to state law, one cannot sell liquor without a liquor license, but a “social affair permit” may be given on a case-by-case basis, and acts as a one-day liquor license, Goodell said.

“You can only get [a social affair permit] if you are a qualified nonprofit and want to have a special event,” Goodell said. “If you are going to sell beer or wine, or sell tickets to your event at which you will provide beer or wine, then you have to get this one-day liquor license from the state. It’s a very thorough application.”

If any money is exchanged, Goodell continued, an applicant would have to go through the state to obtain the one-day liquor license.

Moving forward, officials said they were interested in rewriting the current ordinance, stating that permits to hold events and serve alcohol — limited to wine and beer — could be issued on a “first come, first serve” basis.

“We’re going to do some additional exploration on this,” Mayor Kevin Kuchinski said. “I heard a strong general consensus that this is something we’re going to look at, which would be on a limited basis.”

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