Local breweries feeling relieved with new state liquor laws

WOOLWICH TWP. — On Jan. 16, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed new legislation that will overhaul the state’s liquor license laws.

The new bill will ease restrictions on holders of the craft manufacturer’s license allowing them to offer snacks and non-alcoholic beverages. It also eases restrictions on the number of events that can be held annually by these same craft manufacturers.

This gives them the ability to hold 25 off-premise events, and an unlimited number of on-premise special events and private parties. License holders also can coordinate with food vendors, like food trucks and restaurants, in order to sell food on licensed premises.

This changes the game for breweries, distilleries, cideries, and meaderies. With competition happening across bordering states Pennsylvania and New York, the ease of restrictions for breweries will allow them to grow and boost the New Jersey craft brewing and distillery industry.

For craft alcoholic manufacturers, this will impact them economically, especially as they increase promotion of their own special events, and make their places known.

“There is an expression, “all things in good time”… well this good thing certainly took a long time. Over five years to be exact! The brewing industry in New Jersey just took a giant leap forward!”, Chuck Garrity stated.

Garrity is the owner of Death of the Fox Brewing Co., and he is relieved with the passing of this new bill. For his seven-year-old brewery, he is ready for the creative and fun events that will be organized in the future.

The law will also change the state of inactive and pocket licenses. Inactive licenses, ones that have a site but have not been used, have new requirements, and so do “pocket licenses,” ones that have been purchased but have no attached site. If a license is inactive for two consecutive years, the license holder will have to sell or use the license.

Municipalities will be allowed to trade liquor licenses with other towns nearby if the other options are not considered. Towns that have expired consumption licenses after eight years can issue a new license at public sale.

According to the NJ Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, this allows for easier accessibility to these licenses, bringing back about 1,340 licenses to the market, which would increase the number of licenses in use by 15 percent.

As of right now, the Borough of Swedesboro has no inactive or pocket liquor licenses, East Greenwich Township has one inactive license, Logan Township does not have any available liquor licenses, Woolwich Township has no pocket licenses, and there are no liquor licenses in South Harrison Township.

For towns with malls and certain qualifying strip malls, a new type of retail consumption liquor license will be created. This will produce up to 100 new licenses in the state.

The law says that it will give up to two new licenses for bars and restaurants in shopping malls with a minimum of 750,000 square feet and up to four new licenses for establishments in shopping malls with a minimum of 1.5 million square feet.

Since malls have been declining in recent years, this new license could create growth within these retail establishments which would allow towns in New Jersey to financially benefit from the bill, particularly after malls have been struggling from the pandemic and online shopping.

By Maryela Gallardo

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