We get a lot of questions here about the recent New Jersey Ruling on Limited License Breweries and, honestly, I think I would have to be a lawyer to fully understand them. We have read numerous versions of what they actually mean, but as we read the different interpretations we decided to remove our commentary and just report the facts as we know them, meaning we are just as confused as most. I know that several brewers are asking for clarity on some of the rules so that the industry can have a definitive version of what they actually mean.
New Jersey Restricts Breweries – Connecticut Helps Them Succeed
Which brings me to this. Connecticut has just passed a law that actually gives breweries and cider less restrictions on how they are able to operate within the state. Connecticut had their own set of rules on the books that can be traced all the way back to the repeal of prohibition and in many ways were more restrictive then the current New Jersey ruling, but the legislators and lobbyists have reached a common ground on how to streamline the rules over a meeting that was held, wait for it, at the Thomas Hooker Brewery in Hartford where they negotiated page by page to come up with a consensus.
“We’ve really dragged this industry into the 21st century with this bill,” said Rep. Mike D’Agostino, D-Hamden, the co-chair of the General Law Committee, which oversees liquor laws. “There is no other industry up here at the Capitol that is more dominated by special interest than the liquor industry,” D’Agostino said. Insiders from both sides of the argument here in New Jersey have told us that the powerful Bar & Restaurant lobby here is equally as influential.
Here are some of the changes that were made in Connecticut:
- The bill establishes a Connecticut craft cafe permit which allows manufacturer permittees to, among other things, sell other Connecticut manufactured alcohol for on-premises consumption. Now limited to selling its own beer, a brewery or winery now would be able to offer craft liquor, wine, cider and mead made elsewhere in the state.
- Now limited to nine liters, a retail customer could buy nine gallons directly from a craft brewer.
- Allows alcoholic liquor permittees to hold both a manufacturer permit and a Connecticut craft cafe permit or a restaurant permit
“New Jersey slips further behind our closest neighbors in order to satisfy a small group of retailers who blame the recent increase in breweries for their slower growth.”
– Sean Galie, Owner of Lower Forge Brewery
Sean Galie, owner of Lower Forge Brewery in Medford, NJ, Burlington County and an activist for the New Jersey Independent Brewers Forum told us, “I’m excited for Connecticut brewers and legislators while at the same time disappointed. New Jersey slips further behind our closest neighbors in order to satisfy a small group of retailers who blame the recent increase in breweries for their slower growth. Of course, this doesn’t take into account any of the global changes in people spending more time at home or generally changing their alcohol consumption from the past models.”
You can draw your own conclusions, but this bill (with some other provisions that streamlined the number of permits and some other bookkeeping stuff) passed overwhelmingly 140-5!. This is pretty amazing in itself.
I don’t know what the future of New Jersey Breweries is, but I do know that we need to get more progressive and do something about the archaic licensing practices here in New Jersey if we want this business to grow. For more information on the Independent Craft Brewers of NJ and how you can help affect change visit www.brewedindependent.org.