On September 24, 2018, a special ruling issued by New Jersey Division of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) limited the type of activities that New Jersey craft breweries were allowed to conduct. Only a week later, the ruling has been indefinitely suspended due to public outcry.
The ruling affected the 88 limited breweries already in existence as well as 23 operations that have applications pending. However, the ruling was met with significant criticism and backlash from brewers as well as state government officials, and just a week later the ABC announced that it would be suspending the ruling. The suspension will remain in effect until ABC meets with craft breweries, alcoholic beverage license holders, and lawmakers to iron out new regulations, whether they come through the division itself or new legislation.
New Jersey State Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin criticized the terms of the special ruling, and said that the regulations are inconsistent with the 2012 law aimed at fostering growth in the state’s nearly 100 craft breweries.
Some of the changes in the initial “special ruling” included:
- Breweries can now only hold 25 “special events,” which include paint and sip nights, trivia nights, televised sporting events, and live music nights.
- Breweries are limited to 52 private parties, like birthdays, weddings, or anniversaries, per year.
- The brewery must electronically notify the ABC 10 days prior to holding special events.
- The brewery must disclose numerous documents to detail the special events and private parties.
Customers would still have been able to continue to bring their own food into the tasting room, but the brewery would no longer be allowed to coordinate with other vendors, such as food trucks, to provide food or offer restaurant menus.
In the ruling, breweries did gain the ability to sell items like water, soda, and prepackaged snacks like chips, crackers and nuts within their premises. Breweries also gained the ability to obtain 12 permits a year to sell products off the brewery premises for festivals, athletic events, and other civic events.
After ABC first issued the ruling, a grassroots organization composed of 67 breweries in New Jersey composed an online petition protesting the special ruling, and had collected over 10,000 signatures.
New Jersey Governor Murphy admitted that ABC’s regulations “took him by surprise” in a live Facebook town hall on Monday. “The craft industry has taken a real hold in our state, it’s become a great source of pride,” he said.
The Director of the ABC who issued and then suspended the ruling, David P. Rible, is a former state assemblyman, who was nominated to the Director position by former Governor Chris Christie in July of 2017.