🍺 Gov. Murphy conditionally vetoed a bill that lifts restrictions on breweries

🍺 Murphy's proposal includes liquor license reforms that don't have as much support

🍺 Restrictions on breweries are set to kick in again on Jan. 1

Brewers in New Jersey were expecting Gov. Phil Murphy to say no — for now — to a piece of legislation that lifts event and product restrictions at breweries across the Garden State.

But getting official word of a conditional veto still hurts.

And the industry is wondering if both sides of the debate can come to an agreement before they're forced to start the process all over again.

"We're in a limbo stage and we don't know where this is going to end," said Eric Orlando, executive director of the Brewers Guild of New Jersey.

Murphy's response to brewery bill

Murphy on Monday delivered a conditional veto on S3038, which received unanimous support from both houses of the New Jersey Legislature in June.

In his conditional veto of the bill that would scrap on-site event caps at breweries and permit them to serve snacks and non-alcoholic beverages, Murphy noted that he is in favor of additional privileges for craft brewers. But, he said, the legislation alone "does not sufficiently enhance our antiquated liquor license laws."

Governor Phil Murphy (Rich Hundley III/Governor’s Office)
Governor Phil Murphy (Rich Hundley III/Governor’s Office)

Murphy has been calling for reforms to New Jersey's liquor license laws for the past year. His conditional veto calls for two major additions to the bill: expanded liquor licenses in shopping malls, and the activation of hundreds of so-called pocket licenses (ones that are inactive).

Breweries vs. retailers

Hints of Murphy's conditional veto, and his revisions, have been brewing since the summer. According to the Brewers Guild, the inclusion of liquor license rules in a brewery bill has put local breweries "in the crosshairs of some local retailers for months" — opponents of expansion say it would hurt the value of the liquor licenses they already hold.

"We're finding more and more bars and liquor stores refusing to carry any local craft beers, even if we've worked with them for years," said Jason Goldstein, founder of Icarus Brewing Company in Lakewood. "They're viewing breweries as enemies, thinking that we're to blame for legislation other than our own."

Right now, breweries in the state are unencumbered by regulations, but the rules are set to kick back in on Jan. 1, prior to the end of the lame duck legislative session.

"We don't know if we're going to have to start this process all over again," Orlando said.

On News 12's "Ask Gov. Murphy" program Monday night, Murphy suggested that the issue can be resolved during lame duck.

Both the Assembly Speaker and Senate President tell New Jersey 101.5 that they plan to review the governor's conditional veto and his recommendations.

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