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Why Is Rutherford a Dry Town?

The following was published in the directory that the Big Game Committee produced for the “large

football game” featuring the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks played at MetLife Stadium on

February 2, 2014.

Did you know that Rutherford is a “dry town?”

Why a “dry town?” For more than a century, the Borough of Rutherford has had the

steadfast reputation for not promoting public bars within its residential core. But

excluding Prohibition, spirits have always been available for sale through numerous

stores operated by some of the borough’s leading citizens. Many of our fine eateries

also allow their patrons to bring their personal selections of wine and beer

(conveniently available at neighboring stores) into their dining experience. And

many of the town’s social and civic organizations maintain limited licenses to

distribute alcohol to their members in a private club setting.

Over the years many voices have advocated for additional licenses. But sentiment

still remains strong to maintain Rutherford’s small town, family orientated nature

without the privilege of public alcohol consumption. A “dry town”… yeah, it’s still

just a Rutherford thing!

– William Neumann, Rutherford historian

So, tradition, family values and dearth of licenses contribute to Rutherford as a dry

town. New Jersey has approximately 35 dry towns, no dry counties. Many of these

are in Southern NJ based on origins as religious communities. Rutherford doesn’t

share the historical claim or even make the Wikipedia list because the town allows

alcohol in restaurants; it just must be purchased off premises. There are some clever

solutions to this, such as the wine store in The Village Gourmet.

Some find our liquor laws enticing, because it’s much cheaper to bring a bottle of

wine to dinner than pay per-glass charges. Others find them inconvenient, like

restaurants that have to stop serving when the retail sale of alcohol is

restricted—whether or not their patrons have finished dinner. Four years ago, some

of the dining establishments with adjacent wine stores tried to amend the hours in

which liquor and wine could be sold to better match their hours of operation. At the

time, the RDP president said, “We thought it wouldn’t be prudent to get involved

with an alcohol issue in a dry town.”

Where do you stand on Rutherford’s dry town policy? Please let us know in the

comments section.

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