Now soju, the traditional distilled liquor often touted as Korea’s national drink, has found its way at the center of a legal dispute between Korean American restaurateurs in northern New Jersey, reports NorthJersey.com.
Several restaurant owners in Palisades Park, N.J. who are only licensed to sell wine and beer are pushing to change a state law that would allow them to sell soju. These BYOB restaurants typically allow patrons to bring their own soju or will sell the drink under the table. But liquor license-holding restaurant owners — who say they have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for their licenses — are pushing for area police to crack down on these businesses.
If New Jersey enacts a law enabling BYOB establishments to sell soju, it would be following in the steps of other states with large Korean American populations. In nearby New York, beer and wine license-holders can also sell and serve soju as long as it is imported from Korea and has an alcohol content less than 25 percent. California’s liquor licensing laws regarding soju are nearly identical to New York’s, exempting soju from regulations on distilled spirits.
“Many years ago, when this BYOB law was enacted, the government didn’t know about soju,” said N.J. Assemblyman Gordon Johnson in an interview with NorthJersey.com. “It’s a response to our modern times, and this new culture that we have in the 37th district.”
Northern New Jersey has one of the fastest growing Korean populations in the country. Bergen County, where Palisades Park is located, has the highest percentage of persons of Korean ancestry out of any county in the U.S., according to the 2010 Census. Palisades Park itself is home to over 10,000 Korean Americans, more than half of that town’s population.
If you’d like to follow the dispute or learn more about how it’s unfolded so far, check out NorthJersey.com‘s coverage.