New Jersey Alcoholic Beverage Control decided to relax its home delivery ruling, thus allowing craft brewers to deliver beer residentially, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday.
Brewers like Chuck Garrity at Death of the Fox Brewing Co. in Clarksboro rejoiced, noting that with social distancing measures, home delivery is safer for customers and also better for small businesses than not to have it.
Craft beverage producers were briefly able to do residential delivery following March 16’s Executive Order 104, until March 21’s Executive Order 107 clarified the delivery provision to say “in accordance with their existing licenses.”
Craft beverage production licenses, with the exception of wineries, don’t allow for home delivery.
Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-District 3, gave Garrity a heads up earlier Monday that there was pressure on the governor’s office to address the matter and that good news would be on the way, Garrity said.
“I’m very happy,” he said on the announcement. “I’m excited to offer it again because we certainly took a hit over the last week. We’re starting delivery service tomorrow morning.”
Death of the Fox sales were about 50 percent lower this weekend than the previous weekend, before EO 107, Garrity said. When delivery was allowed, the brewery managed to do 75 percent of sales it would do on a normal weekend, with more than 40 percent of those sales coming through home delivery.
“Yesterday was really slow, incredibly. I think people are taking it seriously, they’re staying home, so no one even wanted to come out and pick it up,” Garrity said.
Alexis Degan, executive director of the New Jersey Brewers Association, said: “I know I can speak for the entire industry when I say I’m incredibly grateful that the administration saw the value in lifting this ban both for public safety of our residents and for the help to small businesses that are trying to stay afloat during these times.”
Glass half empty
Not all craft beverage producers are able to take advantage of the opportunity, however. The relaxation applies only to breweries, leaving distillers like Jersey Spirits of Fairfield to rely only on curbside sales.
Jersey Spirits owner John Granata is president of the New Jersey Distillers Guild. The inability to do residential delivery is causing harm to New Jersey’s craft spirits industry, he said, and will cause craft spirits to lose more sales and more marketshare.
The American Craft Spirits Association reported in 2017 that craft spirits had a 3.2 percent marketshare in volume and 4.6 percent in value of the overall alcoholic beverage market, up from 1.2 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively, in 2012.
“For us to be excluded … I guess it doesn’t matter if we’re being discriminated against and if we’re economically harmed or fail,” he said. “This is lingering on until May, June until we can ever open again and you favor certain businesses over us? We’re obviously at the bottom of a pile and I don’t why. It takes a lot more money to invest in a distillery, and beer is so far ahead of spirits in marketshare … it’s shameful [to not allow distilleries to deliver].”
Requiring distillery customers to leave their house to buy curbside from a craft producer during the stay at home order sends mixed messages, Granata said.
“I don’t know what big bag of tricks everyone thinks we have to pull money out of. We’re a regulated industry, everyone in government knows that we just can’t walk into a bank and ask for money. We have so many restrictions and handcuffs,” Granata said. “The bigger message is don’t order from them, don’t give them business, and when they go out of business, you won’t have to worry about it,” he said.
Murphy’s office did not return a request for comment.