Expressing a need to protect South Brunswick business owners from losing customers, the Township Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to extend the hours of operation for liquor stores by two hours on Sundays.
Township liquor stores will now be allowed to remain open until 7 p.m. instead of the current 5 p.m. closing time. The move should placate local business owners who said they were losing customers during the busiest hours on Sundays, as surrounding towns allow liquor stores to stay open up until 10 p.m.
"I'm really pleased that the township is moving in the right direction," said Rama Govinda, owner of on Route 1 in Monmouth Junction. "Hopefully we can come to profitability this year or next year. This will give us some additional income to cover our losses and reduce our losses moving forward."
In early 2011, in South Brunswick to open at 10 a.m. on Sundays instead of noon, which was the earliest time a store could open prior to the adjustment. However, Govinda said the earlier hours did little to improve business.
"The last two years we've had losses, so this is a small step in the right direction for us," he said. "It really helps us to compete with places in other towns. Customers have gotten used to going to other places, so this will help us compete and allow us to maintain more volume."
During a discussion at last week's council meeting, Mayor Frank Gambatese said South Brunswick Police Chief Raymond Hayducka conducted a survey of surrounding towns to determine if extended liquor store hours could cause any problems for authorities. The survey found that other towns who allow later hours on Sundays did not experience any additional spikes in alcohol related incidents.
"With the information we obtained I'm comfortable adopting this," said Deputy Mayor Chris Killmurray at Tuesday's meeting. "This is a fair compromise and I'm willing to support it."
Councilman John O'Sullivan added that he supported the later hours as a means to aid South Brunswick businesses compete during a difficult economic climate.
"We need to look out for our businesses in town. That's what we're up here for," he said. "We need to look out for businesses in town so they can survive."
The ordinance will return for a second reading and public hearing on Sept. 4
"After a period of time customers will get used to us being open later and will start coming in more often," Govinda said. "This is a small thing that makes a big difference over a period of time."
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