The Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control is indefinitely suspending enforcement of new restrictions it placed last week on the state’s craft breweries, ABC Director David Rible announced Tuesday afternoon.
The rules, issued Sept. 24, will be suspended while the ABC meets with craft breweries, alcoholic beverage license holders and lawmakers to hammer out new regulations, be it through the division itself or new legislation, Rible said.
“We want to make sure that we get this right,” Rible said in a prepared statement. “We are committed to supporting the state’s growing craft beer industry, while also balancing the concerns of other stakeholders and ensuring compliance with state law.”
Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Senate President Stephen Sweeney are vowing legislative action to overturn sweeping restrictions on craft breweries that the Alcoholic Beverage Commission put in place last week, joining a chorus of critical lawmakers and business owners.
Coughlin, D-19th District, said the regulations are inconsistent with the 2012 law aimed at fostering growth in the state’s nearly 100 craft breweries.
“I strongly believe the ruling by the director of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control is inconsistent with the law intending to help foster craft breweries in the state and sets unreasonable restrictions on small businesses taking advantage of the opportunities to grow and prosper,” Coughlin said in a statement Tuesday.
Sweeney, D-3rd District, said legislation would allow for the continued successful operation of the state’s microbreweries. He noted he and other lawmakers would work on legislation that would “clarify” state regulations on how microbreweries can operate successfully, while maintaining their distinction from traditional C-license restaurants.
“Microbreweries in New Jersey have been very successful in capitalizing on new opportunities that have attracted a growing number of customers, created new jobs and contributed to economic growth in their communities,” Sweeney said in a prepared statement. “These microbreweries epitomize the best qualities of small business and we should be doing what we can to support them.”
Senate President Stephen Sweeney
At a Facebook town hall Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy cast doubt on whether the ABC’s actions were the “sensible step to take” and that his administration is looking into the regulations, though he did not specify how officials are examining the new rules.
Murphy also added that the ABC’s regulations “took him by surprise.”
Breweries are now limited to 25 on-premises special events per year and are permitted to set up shop at 12 off-premises events as well — but all types of events require the ABC be notified first, at least 10 days in advance.
The ruling issued Sept. 24 also tells breweries that they are not allowed to give out menus for local food venues that visitors can order in from — a staple offering of limited-license breweries since they have not been allowed to serve food — or coordinate with local vendors to serve food at the brewery. It does allow for the offering of snacks like prepackaged crackers and chips, not allowed under previous rules.
“The craft industry has taken a real hold in our state, it’s become a great source of pride,” Murphy said on Monday.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, R-21st District, said the ABC’s regulations would stifle a growing and promising industry in the state.
“If we’re really going to say that we’re open for business, we’ve got to reduce the regulatory burdens and overall tax burdens,” Kean said, referencing Murphy’s economic master plan that was unveiled Monday.