TRENTON, N.J. – Craft breweries would be freed from some of the burdensome restrictions imposed by unelected state regulators under legislation proposed by Assemblywoman Beth Sawyer.
Sawyer’s bill (A3766) would allow limited brewery license holders to host an unlimited number of on-site events and up to 18 off-premises events each year, nullifying the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s July 1 special ruling that limits those license holders to 25 nebulously defined special events and 52 private events on site and 12 offsite events. Sawyer also wants to eliminate the brewery tour patrons must endure before purchasing drinks, whether for on- or off-site consumption.
“I respect the mission of the ABC. But how does this special ruling protect the general public and stabilize the craft brew industry,” Sawyer (R-Gloucester) said. “Frankly, industry leaders see these rules as decimating their businesses at a time when small business owners in all industries are trying to recover in this post-government lockdown economy.”
In 2012, Gov. Chris Christie signed into law a bill that allowed breweries to sell more products on site. The industry exploded, from a meager 20 breweries 10 years ago to nearly 150 today, with dozens more proposed. The New Jersey Brewer’s Association reports an economic impact of more than $1.8 billion annually with a 2,200-strong workforce.
Although not yet nearly as common as the storied English village pub, New Jersey craft breweries have become social centers unto themselves, the scene of family friendly trivia nights, live music shows, seminars, and even yoga classes. Sawyer wants that to continue, unimpeded by unelected officials’ penchant to be bureaucratic killjoys.
To further stimulate economic growth, a second Sawyer bill (A3765) would create a winery-brewery sublicense. Wineries and farm breweries would be permitted to produce malt liquor beverages for retail sale to consumers for consumption off site.
“Billions of dollars and thousands of jobs are on the line. The ABC rules create losers, my legislation creates winners,” Sawyer added. “That’s something we can all raise a glass to.”