May 5, 2013

A New Jersey problem that makes it utterly different from Wisconsin.

"A 1947 [New Jersey] law, passed to curb the organized crime that flourished in the years after Prohibition, allowed one liquor license for every 1,000 residents per town..."
Flemington had just three—two belonging to establishments in strip malls and one for a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall.

Having a decent bar, it turns out, is helpful to reviving small downtowns, development experts say. So, in February, the developers came up with a novel but expensive solution, buying the Italian restaurant that owned a license and eventually transferring it to the downtown hotel. The price: about $1 million for the permit alone.
In Wisconsin, from what I've seen — and I've driven around a lot — even the smallest place you could possibly call a "downtown" has multiple bars — bars on any commercial block.

(Link via Instapundit.)

57 comments:

Original Mike said...

Wisconsin: More bars, in more places.

Pogo said...

The effort to avoid organized crime transformed it into organized corruption.

No difference, not even the corpulence of the bosses.

virgil xenophon said...

That's what I love about New Orleans; it has more bars than churches--which is saying something in heavily Catholic New Orleans..

Tank said...

Yes, not unusual here to buy a restaurant or bar just to get the license, and then do something completely different with it. $1M is high, but $200K to 500K is common, just to buy the piece of paper.

That being said, lots of people in NJ like it. We have many very good BYOB restaurants, and, of course, bringing your own bottle of wine (or other) is way cheaper than buying it at restaurant prices.

edutcher said...

Sounds like you need a little Prohibition.

The one good thing it did seems to have been starting the restriction of how many saloons per square yard in most places.

virgil xenophon said...

That's what I love about New Orleans; it has more bars than churches--which is saying something in heavily Catholic New Orleans.

I thought the Crescent City was now the Chocolate City.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Hell, you should see Oregon. I've never seen a place with this many bars. There are streets in the tattier bits of Portland where it seems like every third business is a bar.

Of course, it likely has something to do with OR law wrt hard liquor, which cannot be bought at retail except from a small number of government stores, and moreover is taxed up the wazoo.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Tank,

That being said, lots of people in NJ like it. We have many very good BYOB restaurants, and, of course, bringing your own bottle of wine (or other) is way cheaper than buying it at restaurant prices.

Don't they charge corkage in NJ? I don't have much experience of this stuff, but the one time we went to Chez Panisse with an out-of-town friend who'd always wanted to go there (this is back when we lived in the Bay Area, obviously), and brought our own wine, there was a $30 surcharge for that privilege.

Tank said...

One of the big advantages to having more bars, one or more in each town, is that the residents don't have to drive.

Tank said...

Michelle

Most (almost all) do not charge corkage. They just open your wine for you and give you glasses. We eat out often, and I don't think I've ever been charged.

They compensate (ie. stay in business) by charging a bit more for the food.

Tank said...

There are also:

Mexican places that make Sangria that you can add your own wine or liquor to, and

Cuban places that make Mojitos that you can add your own rum to.

Etc.

Hagar said...

New Mexico used to have something like that too, but finally got rid of it with a well publicized campaign describing the political corruption it led to. Some people not too happy when the value of their license went from $500,000 to $500.

Bob Ellison said...

In the UK, they don't drive as much and as often as we do in the USA, and every little hamlet has its pub. Just a walk to get drunk, and a little stumble home.

ndspinelli said...

You still can't pump your own gas in NJ.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Tank,

Ahh, interesting. Of course, the difference in CA is that it's very easy to get an alcoholic beverage license. It's not difficult to charge massive corkage fees if you have an extensive wine list.

Hagar, that's hilarious. Now, if only the same thing were to happen to, say, taxi medallions. Or Manhattan rental leases ...

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

ndspinelli,

You can't pump your own gas in Oregon either.

Bob Ellison said...

ndspinelli, NJ voters rejected a pump-your-own-gas referendum a few years ago. The received wisdom was that people like getting gas pumped for them. Also, NJ has very low gas prices overall.

Stupid people do stupid things.

Jay said...

New Jersey: Where you're too infantile to enjoy a glass of cold beer and pump your own gas.

Hagar said...

Norway used to have a State wine and liquor monopoly; I do not know if it still does.

My uncle used to say that in Norway only bums and millionaires can drink; the bums don't care what it tastes like, and the millionaires don't care what it costs!

Tank said...

Jay

In the winter, when it's ten degrees out, no one minds watching the attendant pump the gas.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

OR law wrt hard liquor, which cannot be bought at retail except from a small number of government stores, and moreover is taxed up the wazoo.

AND Oregon puts the State Liquor Stores in the seediest parts of town. Trying to shame you I suppose.

On a drive back from Oregon last weekend, to visit family, going south to the California border, we had to laugh at the big billboards advertising booze. Just across the border is Hilt, a small spit on the side of the road that has a booming liquor and lottery ticket sales business.

Costco stores, further south are favorite stops for Oregonites to stock up on booze. Costco has a great selection of premium stock in large bottle sizes and the prices are good. Often we will see someone from Oregon with a basket FULL of liquor bottles. Their whole years supply. Because the quantities are so large, they may be asked to sign a statement saying that it isn't for resale.

It's ok, though. We get even by driving to Oregon to purchase some large ticket items without sales tax. Take that California :-)

ndspinelli said...

Bob Ellison, I was not aware of the recent self serve gas vote, thanks. I spent 2 summers working in Wildwood, NJ and had no problem drinking in bars..although they were packed! One of the beneficiaries of these archaic laws are clubs, like The Knights of Columbus, Eagles, Elks, etc. They are not subject to these restrictions. I had friends in Boonton, NJ and spent many nights drinkng @ The Knights.

ndspinelli said...

Michelle, Oregon is one of the 7 states I've not yet visited. I'll look forward to having some kid pump my gas when I do.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

@ Spinelli

A few weeks ago, I was waiting the car at a Calif gas station of off the I-5, while hubby was getting us some Snapples. I saw that there was a young woman who was having a hell of a time trying to pump her gasoline and getting really frustrated. She eventually, looked over at me (non-treatening looking older lady) and said: "Can you help me? I don't know how to do this!". So I got out and showed her how to pump gas. She had Oregon plates. She said that she had never had to pump gas before, thanked me and went back out onto the freeway.

There is a downside to having things done FOR you.

Hagar said...

Mark Twain told of a village somewhere, the inhabitants of which earned a precarious living by taking in each others' wash.

Ann Althouse said...

Pumping gas was once seen as a dirty job. You wouldn't want to get out of your car at a gas station and touch the pumps and the gas cap and all that stuff. It was easily seen as something you wouldn't want to do if you were at all dressed up, had on nice shoes, and clothes that needed dry cleaning.

You should be wearing work gloves to do this, not your bare hands or the leather gloves you'd wear to drive. And getting out of the car might expose you to crime. All this was especially true for women. I don't think female reticence about pumping gas was a sign of overall dependency. It was an idea that there were different jobs, and some got you dirty or exposed physically weak people to dangers.

Currently incomprehensible lyric: "And all the stars that never were/Are parking cars and pumping gas."

Pumping gas was the epitome of a grungy job.

Ann Althouse said...

I'll bet there are millions of married women in America who never (or almost never) pump gas.

Dr Weevil said...

Not everyone likes not being able to pump their own gas in NJ. I was once driving the NJ Turnpike in some kind of semi-disaster - power failure? storm? major-sports-event traffic jam? I forget - and stopped for gas. The lines were very long, and moving very slow, and it took 40 minutes to gas up. The paid pumpers were slower than usual, because they were tired, and had no incentive to hurry. It was like Christmas at the Post Office back when they still had a monopoly. We could have pumped the gas a Hell of a lot faster ourselves, being eager to pump up and get out of there, but we weren't allowed to. Thanks a lot, NJ legislators!

Original Mike said...

"I'll bet there are millions of married women in America who never (or almost never) pump gas."

How is that possible? Aren't stations that will pump your gas few and far between? (except NJ, apparently). I wouldn't know where to find one.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

The explanation of the OR gas-pumping law I've been offered since I moved here is that we have to reserve some jobs for people who aren't really up to anything more complicated than pumping gas. Though why you would want such people spending their entire work day dealing with extremely volatile and flammable substances still mystifies me.

El Pollo Real said...

"Pumping gas" inspired a humorous joke from my youth which I can't recall but the punchline was "pumping ethyl" which dates you if you even know what that refers to.

As for Wisconsins's unique tavern abundance--it's vestigial and its origins are discussed here in a favorite book of mine written by a UW professor.

Hagar said...

It is the Democrats' idea of "creating jobs."

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

DBQ,

On a drive back from Oregon last weekend, to visit family, going south to the California border, we had to laugh at the big billboards advertising booze. Just across the border is Hilt, a small spit on the side of the road that has a booming liquor and lottery ticket sales business.

I've never actually seen the OR/CA border southbound. LOL. I believe it.

It sounds, in fact, just like the billboards I used to see as a kid, on our yearly Christmas trips from NY to Sanibel Island in FL. There was a great Fireworks Divide somewhere in there -- NC/SC, I think, though I may be mixing that up with the incredible, indescribable abomination known as South of the Border, whose approach you are apprised of by billboard at least a hundred miles before you actually get there. Anyway, you cross the legal divide, and there are immediately a zillion fireworks outlets.

Or were, anyway. This was thirty years ago.

Hagar said...

Though back then, pumping gas was not "the epitome of a grungy job," but a good part-time job for college students, and part-time duty for budding auto mechanics. The professor forgets that in that glorious past gas stations also had repair shops and fixed flats (which were frequent with the tires we had then) where they now have the "convenience store" slling cheetos and "the Pill," etc.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Despite having the gas pumped in Oregon and paying an attendant, the gasoline is still less than in California, where we have to pump our own. Taxes, doncha know, for those fabulous, crumbling pothole ridden roads. We try to buy our gasoline when traveling at the Indian Casino station. Regular is $4.05 a gallon at the local station and $3.50 or so at the Indian station.

I'll bet there are millions of married women in America who never (or almost never) pump gas.

Maybe. But in California, unless you are always with your husband, you have no choice but to fill your own gas tank or stay home. You also have to wash your own windows, check your own oil, air in your tires.... etc etc. Ah....progress.


Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

DBQ,

Despite having the gas pumped in Oregon and paying an attendant, the gasoline is still less than in California, where we have to pump our own. Taxes, doncha know, for those fabulous, crumbling pothole ridden roads. We try to buy our gasoline when traveling at the Indian Casino station. Regular is $4.05 a gallon at the local station and $3.50 or so at the Indian station.

It's not just taxes in CA; it's the extra-special only-in-CA gasoline formulation.

Here I don't think anything but super-premium-whatchamacallit broaches $4 at the moment. Unfortunately, the hubbie's Mini won't drink anything else.

Edward Lunny said...

" How is that possible? "
......Husbands.

tiger said...

Yeah? So?

AllenS said...

I've also traveled a lot in Wisconsin and there are a lot of towns in Wisconsin that consist of one building. The bar.

AllenS said...

Not far from where I live in Star Prairie, WI there is the town of Huntington (Huntingdon, the old spelling) and Johannesburg, that has only one building. The bar.

Ann Althouse said...

"How is that possible? Aren't stations that will pump your gas few and far between? (except NJ, apparently). I wouldn't know where to find one."

The husband puts the gas in the car. It's like yardwork and taking out the garbage.

Ann Althouse said...

"The professor forgets that in that glorious past gas stations also had repair shops and fixed flats (which were frequent with the tires we had then) where they now have the "convenience store" slling cheetos and "the Pill," etc."

That work is even dirtier than pumping gas. I'm not saying those aren't good jobs, just that they are dirty. If you're dressed to go to the office, you don't want to change the oil/tires.

AllenS said...

If you're dressed to go to the office, you don't want to change the oil/tires.

When you get home, change your clothes before you change the oil/tires. It's not that difficult to figure out.

Danno said...

As Allen S said about Star Prairie, in that area of Northwestern Wisconsin, many rural county/township road intersections have a bar or two, as a town or village is not even required.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The husband puts the gas in the car. It's like yardwork and taking out the garbage.

It must be a very small [geographically speaking] world that you live in. Not everyone lives like you. Not everyone lives like me either :-D

A small world. One where the husband drives to the gas station, which must be nearby, and back to deliver a full tank of gas to you and you don't drive any further than half a tank of gas at anyone time. A world where you are never alone or ever travel/commute alone.

If I go to the grocery store or shopping out of our little local area, I MUST fill up the tank before coming back. When I go to see my family, it is 2 to 3 large tanks of gasoline down, and 2 to 3 tanks back. More if we decide to go somewhere when I am visiting. If I didn't know how to pump gas, check the tires, check the oil and add more if needed, put windshield washing solution in the reservoir, etc....I would be screwed. Thank goodness for Triple A and cell phones.

AllenS said...

Ann Althouse said...
The husband puts the gas in the car.

Maybe in Madison, but no where else in Wisconsin does that happen.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Ann,

The husband puts the gas in the car. It's like yardwork and taking out the garbage.

Enh. Around here, I take out the garbage. And change the cat litter. Yardwork is split (I do the stuff that looks more like "gardening," while he does the stuff that looks more like "wielding large electric- or gas-powered devices").

I don't pump gas -- mainly because you're not allowed to pump gas in OR, but partly because I don't drive.

ndspinelli said...

DBQ, I've helped maybe ~5-6 older women pumping gas. Two got tearful telling me their husband had just died and he always did it. Melted my heart. One offered me a tip.

Original Mike said...

"The husband puts the gas in the car. It's like yardwork and taking out the garbage."

Ahh. Didn't occur to me. I do the yardwork and I take out the trash, but my wife usually gases up the car. She does 80% of the driving, since she does most of the errands.

ampersand said...

Where I grew up almost every city block had a bar, some even had more than one usually on the corner. If no bars, than you could always find a bowling alley that served drinks. Yet I didn't know any barflys.

When I moved to Ohio,it was my first contact with a state owned liquor store.

You walked in and all the bottles were displayed in museum cases. You took a little yellow slip of paper and wrote down the numbers associated with the bottles you wanted.

You handed a slip to the cashier and paid. Someone else took the slip and dissappeared in the back and a third person brought you your liquor.

If you read any one who travelled thru the Soviet Union at the time this is the same type of system that were used by government run stores such as GUM. Of course the Ohio stores actually had the products in stock.
Liquor prices ran about two dollars more a bottle than Chicago. And whenever I travelled back I always had to do a liquor run for friends and co-workers.
Oddly ehough you could buy your Ohio beer and wine in a drive through.

MCD said...

I live in Jersey. In my town, three of the four restaurants with alcohol licenses serve terrible food. Since alcohol sales account for most restaurant profits, I assume this is not a coincidence.
If our legislators were smart, (not an easy assumption in New Jersey), the licenses would be made more broadly available and the state would collect more sales tax.
But the restaurateurs who spent up to $1,000,000 for their licenses know how to lobby.
It's Chinatown, Jake.

MCD said...

I live in Jersey. In my town, three of the four restaurants with alcohol licenses serve terrible food. Since alcohol sales account for most restaurant profits, I assume this is not a coincidence.
If our legislators were smart, (not an easy assumption in New Jersey), the licenses would be made more broadly available and the state would collect more sales tax.
But the restaurateurs who spent up to $1,000,000 for their licenses know how to lobby.
It's Chinatown, Jake.

Ann Althouse said...

"A small world. One where the husband drives to the gas station, which must be nearby, and back to deliver a full tank of gas to you and you don't drive any further than half a tank of gas at anyone time. A world where you are never alone or ever travel/commute alone."

I think most of the time the husband keeps the car or cars gassed up. If they're driving together, he's the one that gets out and does the dirty work. If she's driving alone, he's made sure the tank is full, and on the rare occasions when she's driving hundreds of miles alone, then she does it herself.

"If I go to the grocery store or shopping out of our little local area, I MUST fill up the tank before coming back. When I go to see my family, it is 2 to 3 large tanks of gasoline down, and 2 to 3 tanks back. More if we decide to go somewhere when I am visiting. If I didn't know how to pump gas, check the tires, check the oil and add more if needed, put windshield washing solution in the reservoir, etc....I would be screwed. Thank goodness for Triple A and cell phones."

You lived in a open-spaces part of the country.

BTW, I've driven across the country alone (or with only children) many many times. I've driven over 1000 miles in a single day, alone, more than once. So I'm a pretty tough driver.

Nevertheless, gassing up the car is dirty work, and I'm just saying, I think in many families, the husband takes care of it.

KLDAVIS said...

Moved to Jersey last week and was saddened to find that the vast majority of grocery stores don't sell wine/beer...another unfortunate side effect of the high cost of liquor licenses.

Hagar said...

But - unlike lawyering - it is clean dirt!

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Ann,

I think most of the time the husband keeps the car or cars gassed up. If they're driving together, he's the one that gets out and does the dirty work. If she's driving alone, he's made sure the tank is full, and on the rare occasions when she's driving hundreds of miles alone, then she does it herself.

I find it very difficult to believe that you did not buy gasoline in the years you weren't married.

Anthony said...

From the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, on "Liquor Laws":

"In the year 1732 a complete and detailed survey of all the streets and houses in London was carried out by William Maitland, F.R.S. Out of a total of 95,968 houses he found the following: brew-houses 171, inns 207, taverns 447, ale-houses 5975, brandy-shops 8659; total number of licensed houses for the retail sale of liquor 15,288, of which considerably more than one-half were spirit bars. The population was about three-quarters of a million. About one house in every six was licensed at this time, and that in spite of attempts; made to check the traffic by restrictive acts passed in 1728-1729. "

One licensed establishment per 50 people.

Rich Rostrom said...

I once saw a US map which was point-colored by the ratio of liquor stores to food stores returned by a Googlemaps search there.

Wisconsin was sharply outlined.

Chicago is interesting. Under Daley II, the city squeezed out a lot of liquor licensees, mainly corner taps. There a lots of hip bars and restaurants with booze, but the actual number of licenses is down about 50% from the 1970s.