The day has finally come to pass (July 1) and craft breweries in New Jersey are now needlessly restricted in a variety of ways to please the liquor license holders in the state. The New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s “ABC Special Ruling of 2019,” has been looming since, well, 2019, and is known as the “Limited Brewery Special Ruling,” And yes, it does just that. New Jersey breweries are now limited to:
- Hosting only 25 on-site activities per year (Events such as trivia, live music, etc.)
- Host only 52 private parties per year
- Attend only 12 off premises events per year
The ruling also prohibits breweries from the following:
- Selling coffee on site
- Collaborating/ coordinating with food vendors/ trucks
- Selling food or operating a restaurant (this was always the case, but might as well add it for good measure)
- Selling specialty cocktails using malt alcohol
- Offering a free drink to any guest
- Offer Happy Hour pricing
How do you feel about New Jersey’s Limited Brewery Special Ruling?
Tyler Forbes, Burzurk Brewing Co. “So they punish the breweries to level the field instead of fixing the real issue that restaurants liquor licenses are a million $’s… wtf. So instead of making it easier for all small restaurant / bar businesses they’re making it equally hard for all. Wtf.”
Jeremy Flounder Lees “We were never allowed to operate a restaurant that’s always been the law but what changes now is we can’t even post a picture of a food truck that might be parked out on the public street in front of us or it’s considered coordinating with the food truck and we will get a license suspension or a big fine.”
Leslie Bruton Tate “This is INSANE! When I did brewery event planning, we sometimes had 25 events per MONTH! Being limited to only 25 per year would decrease business exponentially! (Not to mention all the rest of these rules, but that one seems particularly dumb).”
Michael Vance “The crazy thing is that some of those things — coffee and other NA beverages; minimal food offerings, like snacks — are *required* in taprooms in Indiana and some other states.”
- Michael Orellano “Same in PA”
Travis Coatney, Birravino “The problem stems from the state’s archaic liquor license laws. They are commodity, one-time purchases issued by the individual municipalities based on population etc. Once you own one, you can sell it for whatever amount you want. They are extremely valuable in highly populated areas, and owners want to protect their investment.
In 2012, a bill was passed allowing tasting rooms to sell up to 15.5 gal of beer per customer in any configuration, but no food or entertainment. Before that bill, breweries could only give out 4-4oz samples for free, and sell each visitor a maximum of 2-64oz growlers!
Unfortunately, the 2012 bill spawned many nanos which based their business model on 100% tasting room sales with events like trivia, music shows etc to draw the crowds. This went on for years because the NJABC did not well define the privileges (or lack thereof) of a limited brewery license (probably on purpose). I personally felt many breweries took advantage of this lack of definition, and continued to ‘poke the bear’ by hosting an insane amount of events and continuously advertising food trucks etc…
The restaurant lobby groups have finally gotten what they’ve wanted since 2012 it appears. We had a brewery-in-planning that I pumped the breaks on due to the uncertain future of the state’s laws (rightfully so!).
Will it cause a shakeout? Time will tell. For us, we decided to jump ship all together and open a sourdough bakery instead.”
- Jeremy Flounder Lees “You are right, many opened with no intention on ever distributing and that’s been an issue since I was on the Guild Board back when there was only one Guild here in NJ (2014ish), and then we all became the bad guys and we all get treated the same with but burdensome regs specifically designed to make our business life complicated.”
- Joshua Lockman “All that old bad blood needs to be cleansed and we NEED to get back together again. One united voice so we can all prosper.”
- Krystle Lockman: The 2012 law that breweries operate under does prohibit breweries from making & selling food on the premise. Breweries go in knowing this and most I know don’t want to run kitchens, they only want a food option nearby to keep people drinking safely (and let’s be honest, maybe sell an extra beer or 2 because people drink more when they eat!) The law says nothing about entertainment. The law as it’s written says breweries are allowed to sell beer at retail for on premise consumption. There is nothing in class C license that bars have that spells out trivia, arts & crafts, music, sports, etc as allowable only in bars. Both license have on prem consumption allowances written into the laws they operate under but the regulators are saying on prem should be different for the 2 licenses. The problem is the ABC, who’s director is appointed not elected and therefore does not have to answer to the people, is trying to regulate the “spirit of the law”
Joe Infante “Some of these restrictions are ripe for challenges as an improper restriction on commercial speech. I doubt they follow the factors set forth in the US Supreme Court case, Central Hudson. I just won a lawsuit with similar restrictions on wineries.”
Jesse Stansberry “What’s the rhyme and reason? Putting strict restrictions on a brewery to open up what with whom? It’s give and take…. So who is on the getting end?
- Flounder Lees “Liquor license holders think brewers are circumventing their liquor license laws, although we can only serve what we make (including soda, but we can’t make cider, wine, etc…) and can’t operate a kitchen on premises. They think food trucks on streets by a brewery and yoga on a Sunday will collapse their over inflated liquor license values…the license system in NJ has been broken for decades but the people with the money are the ones that control the system so all we do is push with public support. Only ones hailing the conditions are SOME restaurant owners, the ones vocally opposing it are customers – no customer is saying ‘hey can we have more government regulation on our fun please?’”
Feel free to keep the conversation and commiserating going right here.