On September 21, 2018 David Rible, the Director of the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, issued a Special Ruling applicable to NJ Craft Beer Brewery Licensees. The growth of the craft beer industry in NJ (88 limited brewery licenses have been issued and 23 applications are pending) and the manner in which they have expanded their business activities has caused the state to clarify and limit the number and types of activities that can be conducted on the brewery premises.
In 2012, an amendment to New Jersey’s alcoholic beverage control laws was enacted to promote the craft beer industry with the intention that it would help to generate the sale of craft beers at licensed bar/restaurants and retail stores. Under the 2012 law microbreweries were only permitted to serve beer on site in connection with a “tour” however no guidance was provided as to what type of tour was required or the type of events that could occur at the brewery. Although no food was permitted under the law to be served by the brewery, some breweries filled the void by supplying take out menus of nearby restaurants and allowing on site food deliveries.
As stated in the Special Ruling, the 2012 amendment was not intended to permit a brewery with the same privileges as a sports bar, restaurant, catering hall or liquor store. Nonetheless, many breweries have in many respects been acting as if they possess these full licensed privileges, without limitation, hosting trivia nights, live performances, sporting events, special events and private parties.
The Special Ruling now clarifies what activities are permitted and prohibited on the licensed brewery premises, clarifies the provision of the required tour, further clarifies the prohibition of food service, and limits the number and types of activities. For example, no more than 25 on premises public/ special events a year, 12 off premises events such as festivals, fairs or athletic events, and 52 private parties including trade and civic associations. Additionally, a simplified E- Notification permit system is being instituted. The new rules are to take effect immediately and are actually a precursor to new regulations to be implemented by the State affecting the craft brewery industry.
Unfortunately, with upcoming Octoberfest events and already booked holiday parties these new regulations may have a stinging effect on many microbreweries’ bottom line.