Good News for Craft Breweries: NJ Crackdown Put on Hold
TRENTON — The controversial special ruling issued by the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control restricting the activities of craft brewers has been suspended.
The ruling, which limited craft brewers to just 25 on-site events and prohibited them from selling food, was met with immediate criticism from the industry and from politicians including minority Senate leader Tom Kean, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and state Senate President Steve Sweeney
Gov. Phil Murphy earlier said the ruling had "unintended consequences." During a Facebook Live town hall meeting on Monday, Murphy praised the craft beer industry for becoming a "source of pride" and hinted his administration was looking at the special ruling.
In issuing the suspension of enforcement of the special ruling, ABC Director David Rible said his agency is committed to supporting the state’s growing craft beer industry, while also balancing the concerns of other stakeholders and ensuring compliance with state law.
“We want to make sure that we get this right," Rible said.
Rible said he will confer again with the New Jersey Brewers Association, the Brewers Guild of New Jersey, the New Jersey Licensed Beverage Association, and the New Jersey Restaurant Association as well as craft brewers to determine a path that protects the interests of both the brewers and the restaurants.
The intent of a 2012 law was to help grow the craft brew industry in New Jersey by allowing breweries to serve samples of their product. But critics say many breweries used the ruling to open restaurants and sports bars that went beyond the intent of the law.
"Everyone seems to be on our side," New Jersey Brewers Association President Jamie Queli said, adding that the 2012 law allowed brewers to help their communities by hosting charitable events and allowed them to try different things to expand their businesses.
Queli said the special ruling imposed rules that some thought should have been in place back in 2012.
"The problem is, you fast forward so many years later, it's taken on a life of its own and a community of its own and the industry has exploded thanks to the 2012 ruling," Queli said.
Kean said the special ruling went too far and served to stifle growth, and said he is glad the administration saw "the error of its ways."
Coughlin in a statement said: “I look forward to working with the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control to address the needs of microbreweries and help New Jersey small businesses continue to thrive.”