🍺 Breweries want an end to event caps and food restrictions

🍺 There's a week left for the NJ Legislature to act

🍺 Gov. Phil Murphy vetoed a bill in November, looking for additional fixes

There's another glimmer of hope for breweries in New Jersey that are wondering how to move ahead with operations in 2024.

There may be a last-minute effort in Trenton to once again advance legislation that would scrap a list of restrictions related to events and food at craft beer taprooms.

If a bill is introduced, it has only until Jan. 9 to be passed by the full New Jersey Legislature before a new group of lawmakers is sworn in.

"We still remain at a certain level of uncertainty in the industry, and we can't continue to operate with fits and starts in what the rules are for breweries in the state," said Eric Orlando, executive director of the Brewers Guild of New Jersey.

Since the summer, the state has been pausing enforcement on certain restrictions for breweries. The pause was scheduled to expire on Jan. 1, but the Division of Alcoholic Beverage recently extended the break until Jan. 16.

Orlando said that timeline offers just enough space for a new bill to be introduced, approved, and signed by Gov. Phil Murphy.

"If the regulations were to go back into effect, you would only have a certain number of public events, a certain number of private events, it would impact what you can show on your television, it would impact the type of food options you can offer your customers," Orlando said.

In November, Murphy delivered a conditional veto on S3038, which received unanimous support from both houses of the New Jersey Legislature a few months prior.

In his conditional veto of the bill that would also allow breweries to serve 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."

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).

Since then, industry professionals have been pushing legislators to come up with something.

“I am actively working with stakeholders and hopeful that brewery legislation will get done in lame duck which also preserves liquor license reforms in Governor Murphy’s CV," state Sen. Vin Gopal, D-Monmouth, told New Jersey 101.5.

Any bills that are passed by the outgoing Legislature next week will have one week to be acted upon by the governor.

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