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Rutherford, N.J., previously a dry town, offers restaurants liquor licenses for first time in more than a century

Rutherford, N.J. issues first liquor license
Rutherford, N.J. issues first liquor license 02:00

RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Rutherford has been a dry town for more than a century.

Even though many restaurants are BYOB, the borough just handed out its first liquor license.

Song'E Napule is known for its traditional Neapolitan pizza. All of the ingredients are imported from Italy.

For the first time, customers can order a variety of cocktails and other alcoholic beverages to go with their favorite dish. The trattoria and pizzeria is the first in the borough to be awarded a liquor license.

"I think it's amazing. I mean, amazing. People love a drink when you eat the pizza with a beer or wine - amazing wine," owner Ciro Iovine said.

A little over 50% of voters approved the non-binding referendum in Rutherford. Officials say the move will give the borough a big boost, especially as businesses try to recover from the pandemic.

"There will be a nice array of restaurants that you can still do BYOB, which some of us love to do sometimes, but also I think this will increase the quality of and the status of restaurants that come into our town," Rutherford Councilwoman Maria Begg-Roberson said.

Rutherford hasn't awarded a liquor license since the late 1800s. Some residents say it's hard to believe it has taken so long.

"I think it's going to be really fun to be able to get a drink in my hometown of Rutherford which I've always had to travel for," resident Ally MacConchie said.

Iovine paid $300,000 for the license, which cost a lot more than other states. Official said that's because of New Jersey's antiquated liquor laws.

The manager says there has been an uptick in business since getting the license on May 17.

"It's much more people coming in, and the vibe has changed a lot. I think we are offering a new service to the town," Pietro Caldarelli said.

Borough officials said they've got five more liquor licenses available to bid on, and they're hoping that process will bring more restaurants to the borough.

Gov. Phil Murphy is pushing to change New Jersey's liquor laws so that more businesses can bid on them.

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