It's been one thing after another over the last couple of years in rules, restrictions, limitations, and so forth putting a burden on our local New Jersey breweries and it's making things stressful, to say the least for the people working in these spots.

There could be some help on the way to ease the financial and economic pains and burdens New Jersey breweries are facing thanks to a couple of pieces of legislation making their way through the statehouse in Trenton.

One is a bi-partisan bill that is designed to ease the restrictions that the ABC (New Jersey Division of Alcohol Beverage Control) have put on breweries, as announced in a statement by Monmouth County State Senator Vin Gopal.

Senator Gopal (D) is joined in co-sponsoring this legislation by fellow Monmouth County State Senator Declan O'Scanlon (R), Senator Linda Greenstein (D - Plainsboro), and Assemblyman Clinton Calabrese (D - Cliffside Park) and they hope to relieve the ABC restrictions on our breweries which includes limiting the number of on-site events that can be held over the course of a calendar year, and one that prohibits breweries in New Jersey from teaming up with local food vendors, and from brewing and selling coffee.

“New Jersey is home to a vibrant craft brewing sector and the state should be working to facilitate, rather than inhibit, its growth,” Senator Gopal said in a written statement. “This legislation will provide a fairer regulatory framework for the state’s craft breweries and encourage collaboration between breweries and the state’s other homegrown producers.” 

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“While I do understand the concerns of fully licensed bars and restaurants, we have the past several years, when these much more restrictive rules weren’t in place, as evidence that the threat to fully licensed establishments isn’t significant,” Senator O’Scanlon said in a written statement. “That makes these arbitrary, overly restrictive rules gratuitously punitive. Government, particularly here in NJ, is way too quick to punish and restrict. We should lean in the other direction. Our bill will help rebalance the system fairly for all.”  

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 “This ruling has placed an unfair and unjust burden on our brewery owners, staff, and patrons,” Senator Greenstein said in a written statement. “Local breweries play a crucial role in the fabric of our communities, as well as in the culinary history and future of the State. I am committed to passing commonsense legislation that supports our growing craft brewery industry." 

“The ABC’s restrictions unnecessarily hamper our New Jersey breweries,” Assemblyman Calabrese said in a written statement. “Our breweries create jobs and tax revenues as well as serve as anchor businesses which help draw patrons to Main Street and provide business opportunities for supporting local artists and vendors at brewery events.”  

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Senator Gopal said that fellow State Senators Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick), Patrick Diegnan (D-South Plainfield), and Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen) will also be co-sponsoring this legislation.

Meanwhile, Cape May and Cumberland County State Senator Michael Testa (R-1) has introduced his own bill which would essentially eliminate some of the micro-managing and oversight and let the breweries have more control.

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Senator Testa explains that his bill, S-3042, "amends current law to authorize the holder of a limited brewery license to engage in an unlimited number of on-premises special events, up to 18 off-premises special events per year pursuant to a permit, and eliminates the requirement that the license holder provides a tour to a consumer prior to serving alcoholic beverages for consumption on the licensed premises. 

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The bill also establishes a winery-brewery sublicense that would permit wineries to produce malt alcoholic beverages for retail sale to consumers for consumption off the licensed premises and establishes a farm brewery license that would allow a new licensee to also produce and sell those same alcoholic beverages." 

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“I believe that brewers building a business in our state deserve to have more say in how they run their operations because the term ‘free enterprise’ applies to them as well. I look forward to working with my colleagues and with legislators across the aisle to end these bureaucratic obstacles and fix a dysfunctional system," Senator Testa said in a written statement. "Brewers invest a lot in trying to operate in New Jersey and I believe that we should make the process easier and allow for these entrepreneurs to innovate and experiment to find success in our free enterprise system. The famous sign on the bridge reads ‘Trenton Makes, the World Takes.’ We should ensure that our brewers have the ability to produce their product and prosper in that same spirit.”

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“Small brewers across the state have made significant contributions to New Jersey’s economy, creating jobs, and helping revitalize downtown districts,” New Jersey State Senator Steven Oroho (R-24), a cosponsor of the Senator Testa legislation, said in a written statement. “Recent regulatory changes interfere with local-based brew pubs to attract customers and make money, and this bill would remove some of the new restrictions. Trenton should be helping small businesses, not crushing them with unreasonable rules.”

Credit: Chris Varacchi
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