Distinct differences separate a brewery from a bar in the Garden State.

At a brewery, visitors must get some type of tour before tasting the products. And food can't be sold or provided on the premises.

Proposed legislation, introduced following a controversial ruling from the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, would get rid of both of those restrictions.

Under the bipartisan measure, breweries would be able to host food vendors on their premises, and provide menus to customers. The bill also allows these establishments to sell soda, whether or not it's made on site.

Alexis Degan, executive director of the New Jersey Brewers Association, said many breweries aren't interested in becoming restaurants — if they were, they would have gone the brew-pub route — but they do want to make it easier for customers to put some food in their stomachs while drinking alcohol.

"The ability to serve food to an extent ... the region around us absolutely allows in their breweries," Degan said.

The bill also scraps the requirement that a tour be given to each customer.

Jamie Queli, CEO of Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing in Cherry Hill, said she's proud to show off her operation to any customer who's interested. But she doesn't want to be burdened with the threat of a fine if the establishment fails to give a customer a tour — especially if the customer isn't interested in the beer-making process.

"It also gets a little difficult for us when we have people that come in every other week because we have new beers," Queli said. "And a lot of people have seen breweries before. You see some stainless steel tanks — maybe you don't want to see them again."

ABC's special ruling issued in September, which imposed restrictions on events and food service at breweries, was quickly suspended due to immediate criticism from the industry and politicians.

The ruling had limited craft brewers to 25 on-site events and 12 off-site events. The new legislation allows an unlimited number of on-site events, but proposes the same limit of 12 off-site events.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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