NJ issues new brewery rules — for real this time
The leash on craft breweries in New Jersey is not as short as first proposed late last year.
More than six months after suspending a ruling that, among other things, limited breweries to 25 on-site events, the state's Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control announced changes on Tuesday that are far more palatable to the craft-brew industry.
The 25-per-year limit on "special events" still holds, but new language defines these events as only those that are promoted through the media or that provide entertainment in the form of live or DJ music, or live championship sporting event broadcasts.
So events included in the September 2018 ruling, such as trivia, yoga and animal adoptions, are no longer counted as "special."
Among other notable changes, the Division's ruling eliminates a ban on food deliveries, allowing brewery owners to provide patrons with menus from local restaurants.
And while state law requires that breweries give patrons a tour of the facility before serving them, the Division's ruling requires tours only once per year for repeat customers as long as the brewer maintains records of customers' previous participation.
"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," said James Graziano, the Division's acting director.
Legislation in 2012 paved the way for limited breweries in the state, but over time, the Division said, "a growing number of craft breweries" began serving alcohol well beyond what the limited licenses envisioned, and it resulted in complaints of unfair competition from bars and restaurant owners who hold much costlier licenses to serve alcohol.
In response, the Division issued a ruling on September 21 that clarified the privileges of a limited brewery license. Less than two weeks later, the Division suspended that ruling due to backlash from the craft brewing industry.
"I do believe that the director has really taken into consideration what this industry is doing for the state, and how the previous regulations would have severely hampered small independent businesses," Alexis Degan, executive director of the New Jersey Brewers Association, said of the updated ruling. "There are certainly aspects of this regulation that we're not happy with, but we understand that the ABC is not where we go to get this fixed."
The Association believes any limits on special events or private events are not appropriate. Degan said it's up to the state Legislature to clarify their intent in creating these limited licenses.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.