More News:

December 29, 2023

New Jersey brewery restrictions to return following temporary waiver

In July, rules concerning the number and type of events craft alcohol manufacturers may hold each year were suspended, but they will be reinstated in the new year

Government Breweries
New Jersey Brewery Restrictions ELEVATE/Pexels

Gov. Phil Murphy wants broad changes to the New Jersey’s liquor license laws. In the meantime, certain rules are returning.

A temporary waiver that allowed breweries to skirt strict rules limiting their ability to serve food and hold events is set to expire at the end of the year amid a standoff between legislators and Gov. Phil Murphy over broader changes to the state’s liquor license laws.

Since 2019, state regulations have restricted the number and type of events breweries, vintners, and other craft alcohol manufacturers may hold each year. Those rules, which also bar breweries from serving all food save token snacks like pretzels, have been suspended since July but are due to resume on Jan. 1.

MORE: New Jersey's proposal to limit children’s social media use has a big obstacle: the First Amendment

The pending expiration has spurred uncertainty within the industry as brewers begin to plan events for next year.

“It would be good to have something that our group can point to and show to members and say, 'These are the rules' — whether it be the next months, next three months, next six months — about how you’re supposed to operate your business,” said Eric Orlando, executive director of the Brewers Guild of New Jersey.

Legislators unanimously backed the bill to lift brewery restrictions in both chambers, but Murphy conditionally vetoed the bill once it reached his desk, asking lawmakers to add provisions that would allow municipalities to deny renewals for some unused liquor licenses and create a new class of license to allow alcohol sales at shopping mall food courts.

The governor’s conditional veto was met with a frosty reception in the Legislature, and there’s been little sign of movement since he issued it in late November.

The Legislature’s schedule all but precludes a vote on brewery rules before the end of the year. Lawmakers are not expected to return to Trenton until Jan. 4.

Sen. Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen), a co-sponsor of the brewery bill who has been involved in efforts to revamp the state’s liquor license laws, said he expects legislators will return to act on the governor’s conditional veto sometime before new legislators are sworn in on Jan. 9.

“I think that’ll be done by the end of the session,” he said, adding, “It’s still kind of fluid.”

Brewers, meanwhile, have asked the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control to extend its non-enforcement of brewery rules for another six months, or until new rules get signed into law.

“What we wanted was something that we could see knowing that we weren’t going to have to be in limbo waiting over Christmas week, waiting for the next thing to be issued,” Orlando said. “The last time they did this was a matter of hours from the last deadline when the restrictions were supposed to kick in.”

New Jersey Monitor is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. New Jersey Monitor maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Terrence McDonald for questions: Follow New Jersey Monitor on Facebook and Twitter.