BELMAR — Beer will flow at the New Jersey Seafood Festival after borough officials uninvited their long-time operator because of a private labor dispute.

Ritchie & Paige, the Robbinsville-based distributor of Budweiser products in Hunterdon, Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean counties reached an agreement with Mayor Matt Doherty to run the beer tent at the festival Friday, May 19 through Sunday, May 21.

Doherty had refunded Shore Point's $10,000 fee after the company locked out their 113 members on April 30 after contract negotiations stalled over pensions, a proposed wage freeze and health insurance, according to Teamsters Local 701.  Ritchie & Paige will pay $5,000 to cover their first time sponsorship of the beer tent.

"They reached out to us along with other microbreweries" after hearing about the opening, Doherty said. "It's a step of blind faith on their behalf because they're never done this before. But I think they're going to be successful." The microbreweries, however,  couldn't provide the large amounts of their beverage needed to quench the thirst of the nearly 200,000 expected to attend the festival.

Along with Bud Light, Landshark and Heineken, Ritchie and Paige will also feature Beach Haus beer, which is brewed in Belmar.

Doherty said he has received mostly support for his decision and called Shore Point "tone deaf" for making the decision to lock out their employees.

"It's not as if these guys walked off the job. That does not sit well with bar owners. Working class people get what that means and that's not good for Shore Point."

He has also heard criticism for his decision.

"We've had some people who are on the other side of the ideological spectrum politically and figured they could use this to hit me over the head with. That's politics."

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at

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