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New Jersey Alcoholic Beverage Bills to Watch 2018 – Part 2: Craft Breweries 

Tours Before Pours?

Under the current statute, craft breweries – those holding a limited brewery license – are required to give their customers a tour of the brewery before selling them drinks for on-site consumption (the same goes for craft distilleries).  The tour requirement has been a hot topic since its enactment.  What constitutes a tour?  Does it have to be live, or does a video tour count?  Can I hand out a card describing the brewing process to satisfy the tour requirement?  Do you have to take a tour every single time you go to the brewery, even if you have received a tour 5 times before?  How long does the tour have to be – 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, more?  Some craft breweries are rather small and the brewhouse is easily viewed from the bar room – in that case, do you have to take patrons through, or into, the brewhouse even though they can see all the equipment from the barroom?  And if you do, does that create a safety or health concern?  How do you prove you are giving customers a tour?  Do you have to have some kind of recordkeeping or tracking system in place?  Are all licensees strictly adhering to the statute?  Is it enforced uniformly or selectively?  How come other states do not have this requirement?

These questions and others have led to confusion and frustration among licensees and their customers.  There has been talk that the ABC was going to issue regulations to clarify the tour requirement, but that has not yet happened.  One way of handling it is to simply remove the tour requirement.  That is proposed in several bills. See A1863 and A2230 (eliminate tour requirement before selling beer for limited breweries, but require that tours and information about the brewing process generally be available during business hours); A2068 and S1313 (eliminate tour requirement for limited breweries); and A2196 (eliminate tour requirement for both limited breweries and craft distilleries).  Craft brewers in New Jersey will be paying close attention to these bills or any potential guidance the ABC may issue by way of regulation, notice to the industry, or otherwise.

Who’s Hungry?

Another significant issue for craft breweries is their inability to serve food.  The current statute provides that licensees must not sell food or operate a restaurant on the premises.  As mentioned in “Part 1: Craft Distillers,” this restriction may be dangerous.  We all know that food should be available when people are drinking to slow down the absorption of alcohol.  In fact, New Jersey breweries (and distilleries) could be the only places in the country where the sale of food is prohibited when alcohol is served for onsite consumption.  Three bills seek to (somewhat) eliminate the prohibition regarding food service at a craft brewery.

A2015 would add language that the licensee may allow consumption of food by consumers on the licensed premises.  But this bill does not seem to change anything.  The current statute does not say that you cannot bring outside food to a craft brewery – it merely says the craft brewery can’t sell you food or operate a restaurant.  Ordering a pizza from the restaurant next door doesn’t appear to offend the statute as currently drafted, and this is a common practice for New Jersey’s craft brewery customers.

A2230 and S1313 would allow craft breweries to offer or sell snacks such as chips, nuts, and crackers.  Although this revision still severely restricts food offerings, at least some food could be purchased on site to help alleviate the concerns set forth above.

Expanded Sales Opportunities?

Currently, limited breweries may only sell direct to consumers at their own facility and may only sell their own products.  A1681 would allow limited breweries to open up to 15 separate salesrooms where they could sell their products for both on- or off-site consumption.  The salesroom could even be located together with the salesroom of a New Jersey winery.  And the license for each salesroom would cost only $250.  Imagine Cape May Brewing in Hoboken, Kane in Cherry Hill, or Conclave in Red Bank.

S633 would allow limited breweries to also sell at their facilities wine and liquor manufactured by small wineries and craft distillers for off-site consumption.  This would be a great way for New Jersey industry members to cross-market their products.

A2219 and S511 would allow craft breweries (as well as craft distilleries and small wineries) to obtain a permit to sell their products at seasonal farmers markets for off-site consumption and provide small samples at the farmers market.

Restricted breweries (“brewpubs” that have small production, operate a restaurant and are coupled with a retail consumption license) cannot sell directly to other retailers, such as liquor stores or other restaurants.  A2016 would allow brewpubs to distribute up to 1,000 barrels to retailers both inside and outside New Jersey.  This would give brewpubs some welcome control over, and new opportunities for, distribution.

Tourism and Marketing 

A2130 would help to put New Jersey craft breweries on the map – literally.  This proposed bill would have the New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism identify a series of breweries for a New Jersey brewery trail (actually 3 trails).  The Division of Travel and Tourism would also develop a website with information about each craft brewery and brewpub in the state, and would include vacation itineraries based on the brewery trails, identifying nearby attractions, restaurants, lodging, and entertainment.  It would be great to see New Jersey embrace the craft brewing industry like many other states have.

For additional information regarding this matter, please contact Andrew D. Linden, Esquire, at or call our offices at 908-722-0700.  For information regarding federal and Pennsylvania liquor law matters or general manufacturing and distribution advice, please contact Liquor Law Department Chair Theodore J. Zeller III, Esquire, at or call our offices at 610-391-1800.