Lampitt, Singleton & DeAngelo Bill to Help Spur Continued Growth of Craft Brewery Industry in NJ
An Assembly panel on Monday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Troy Singleton and Wayne DeAngelo that would eliminate several obstacles to help the brewery industry in New Jersey continue to grow and flourish responsibly. Specifically, the bill (A-4602) would remove the provision under current law that requires the holder of a limited brewery license to provide a tour of the brewery when selling the brewery's products for consumption on the licensed premises, and would permit the offering of light snacks to consumers on the licensed premises of the brewery. "New Jersey's liquor laws are extremely complex and this legislation would remove unnecessary red tape for breweries to support the craft alcohol industry," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). "The state has a responsibility to promote safe alcohol consumption. Allowing breweries to offer and sell light fare for consumption on the premises is not only good policy but critical to promoting public safety." Under current law, the holder of a limited brewery license is entitled to brew up to 300,000 barrels of 31 fluid gallons capacity per year of malt alcoholic beverages to sell and distribute to wholesalers and retailers. These licensees are authorized to sell their product at retail to consumers on the licensed premises for on-site consumption, but only in connection with a tour of the brewery, and the licensee is prohibited from selling food and operating a restaurant on the licensed premises. Under the bill, consumers would not be required to take a tour of the brewery to purchase beverages for onsite consumption. Additionally, consumers would be allowed to either purchase, or be provided, gratuitously, light snacks on the licensed premises of a limited brewery. "Current brewery regulations put New Jersey at a competitive disadvantage with our neighboring states," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "Mandatory tour requirements can be an obstacle in certain circumstances, especially when beer production and packaging is taking place in close quarters. This is a good pro-business, pro-economy change." The sponsors noted that nothing in the bill would prevent breweries from continuing to offer voluntary tours to their customers, a practice that is likely to continue among many breweries. In New Jersey, both classes of winery licenses (plenary winery and farm winery) have no tour requirement and have no prohibition regarding the sale or free offering of any types of food, including light snacks, and allow restaurants to be operated on a winery's licensed premise. Additionally, New Jersey recently enacted legislation creating a state license to manufacture mead and hard cider, which also contains no tour requirement and allows for the sale and/or gratuitous offering of "light snacks." The legislation approved today mirrors the provisions of this new mead and hard cider license. "The craft brewing sector has experienced tremendous growth in recent years, spurring increased economic activity, but there is fierce competition from neighboring states," said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "This bill will help standardize the disparate treatment that different types of facilities receive under our patchwork of liquor laws and give them a leg up with the competition." According to the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild, the 68 craft breweries currently operating in the Garden State support 9,560 jobs in the state, and generate $1.2 billion dollars in economic impact for the state. In neighboring New York, the craft beer industry grew 59% from 2013 to 2014, with a total economic impact estimated at $3.5 billion. Many other states explicitly allow the sale or free offering of food at breweries, with some, like Pennsylvania, requiring food be available at a brewery if beer is being sold for on-premise consumption. The bill was approved by the Assembly Regulatory Oversight Committee and would take effect immediately upon enactment.