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NJ suspends new regulations on events at craft breweries

October 2, 2018

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New regulations to limit the number of events craft breweries in New Jersey can hold were put on ice Tuesday.

Just a few weeks after the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control issued rules on Sept. 21 limiting the state’s roughly 90 microbreweries to 25 on-site activities a year, the office said it was suspending the regulations.

“We want to make sure that we get this right,” ABC Director David Rible said in a statement.

Rible says the division will work with stakeholders to understand concerns and consult with lawmakers on potential changes.

The reversal comes after the initial rules led to some pushback from legislative leaders, including Democrats Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday the rules surprised him and pledged to look into it.

A day later, the division announced the about-face.

The rules stemmed from an attempt to clarify a 2012 law that allowed the breweries to serve their beers on-site. They would have limited microbreweries to 25 on-site activities each year, such as trivia nights and live performances.

It also called for barring them hosting more than 52 private parties each year or showing sports on television unless it counted as one of their 25 special events.

Eric Orlando, executive director of the Brewer’s Guild of New Jersey, said the group is happy to now be included in the decision-making process and added that most brewers would say the latest development was good news.

Though, he said, the degree to which the regulations would have affected breweries depended on each brewery’s business model.

New Jersey’s liquor laws limit retail licenses based on population. With a limited number of licenses in each town, and with some towns choosing not to allow any alcohol sales, demand for the licenses can drive up the price retailers pay.

That leads establishments to worry that microbreweries could be diluting the value of their licenses. Some license holders, like bars and restaurants, also raised concerns that they faced a separate set of rules compared to breweries.

Coughlin said in a statement he applauds the decision to halt the regulations and wants to work with the division and “address the needs of microbreweries and help New Jersey small businesses continue to thrive.”

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