Garden State Craft Brewers Face New Set of Restrictions

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New Jersey’s Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, a department under the state Attorney General’s Office, issued a new special ruling  late last month outlining a number of refined rules breweries need to follow. The regulations include limits on the number of events breweries can have, and what they can serve. Language in the new ruling says it works to consider the concerns of the 100 craft brewers in New Jersey, and the about 6,000 establishments across the state that hold full liquor licenses.

At the top of the list is a victory for New Jersey’s restaurants. Craft brewers will not be allowed to sell food, have a restaurant, or work with food trucks or vendors to provide food at their brewery locations.

“We have had our eye on this for a while,” noted Marilou Halvorsen, President and C.E.O. of the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association (NJRHA). “Keep in mind that some of these breweries were paying as little as $2,500 for the right to serve beer and we have members that have paid up to $1 million for their liquor license.”

However, menus from restaurants can be left, as long as there is not an exclusive partnership between the two businesses. Food can be delivered to patrons inside the breweries.

Nearly eight months after a rush of pushback forced the state to pull back on a slate of restrictions aimed at regulating what craft breweries can and can’t do, it’s trying again. “We believe the activities permitted under this special ruling strike a fair and appropriate balance between the interests of full retail license holders, such as restaurants and bars, and the craft brewing industry,” Acting ABC Director James Graziano said.  “Will everyone be satisfied with them? Probably not. But at the end of the day, the division’s job is to set limits on what licensees are entitled to do under existing laws and to level the playing field so that all limited breweries can compete fairly with each other.”

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Highlights of the new rules include 25 on-premises special event limit for the State’’s breweries. The new rules, however, refined the definition of “special events” to those that are promoted by the media or include entertainment like live music, DJ’s, or live-televised championship sporting events, trivia, paint and sip, animal adoption events, and yoga.

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In addition, Breweries are still limited to 52 private events per year, but now those  hosting parties can bring their own wine and beer to the events.The breweries would be allowed to apply for a newly-created permit that would allow 12 off-premises events a year, at which they can sell four or six-packs of beer, as well as beer in open containers.

Some previous rules will also remain in place. For example, breweries are not allowed to have more than two televisions bigger than 65 inches. If a brewery does have more than two, the additional TVs will only be allowed to display information about the brewery, not television programming.

The new ruling, Graziano said, was the result of consultations with various organizations, including the New Jersey Beer Guild, New Jersey Brewers Association, the New Jersey Licensed Beverage Association, the New Jersey Restaurant Association, the New Jersey Liquor Store Alliance, and legislators throughout the state.

Megan Myers, one of the co-owners of Human Village Brewing Company in Pitman and one of the co-founders of the Independent Brewers of New Jersey, said Tuesday’s ruling was a good compromise.

“The ABC came to the table with a lot of different interests and listened to the breweries,” Myers said. Graziano said the division’s new rules are in line with the original 2012 interpretation of the limited brewery statute passed by the state legislature. And if there are issues with this directive, he said, lawmakers will need to deal with them.

“If there is a need for or interest in adjusting or further expanding the privileges available to limited brewery licensees, that would be a matter for consideration by the legislature,” Graziano said. Myers agreed, noting that craft brewers now plan to move on to “phase two” — approaching legislators about changing the laws that govern breweries.

“Change has to come from the legislators,” she said. “We need people who support the breweries to support their legislators. The legislation is only going to come from people speaking out and making it clear that this is what they want in their communities and for their local businesses.”

Beginning June 3, breweries will be required to give a 10-day notice to the ABC of an on-premises special event.

  • Cuisine Solutions
  • McKee Foods
  • Atosa USA
  • Imperial Dade
  • DAVO by Avalara
  • Simplot Frozen Avocado
  • RAK Porcelain
  • Red Gold Sacramento
  • Easy Ice
  • Inline Plastics
  • RATIONAL USA
  • BelGioioso Burrata
  • Day & Nite
  • AyrKing Mixstir