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Norcross Bill To Help Grow New Jersey’s Craft Brewing Industry Advances To Full Legislature

Measure Would Modernize Laws Governing NJ’s Craft Beer Industry, Spurring Business Growth and Job Creation

TRENTON – Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senator Donald Norcross (D-Camden/Gloucester) to modernize laws governing the state’s brewpubs and microbreweries to help foster an environment for business growth and job creation within the craft beer industry was approved today by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and the Assembly Appropriations Committee. It now heads to the full Legislature for a vote.

“As demand for their product has grown, our state’s small breweries have been asking for the ability to expand their businesses in New Jersey. Especially in this economic climate, we should be doing all we can to help them succeed,” said Senator Norcross. “This measure will lift restrictions that are stunting the growth of this industry. By doing this, we will encourage business investment, which will create new local jobs and fuel economic growth.”

New Jersey’s craft brewing industry has grown considerably in the last twenty years; however, state laws have not been revised to accommodate the business demand. New Jersey currently ranks 32nd in overall craft beer production, compared to neighboring states like Pennsylvania (2nd), New York (7th) and Delaware (17th) which are amongst the leaders in the country, according to the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild.

Co-sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Morris/Somerset/Union), the bill (S-641) would modify provisions in state law that govern the state’s small breweries by cutting red tape and lifting restrictions that are limiting the industry’s growth. The bill would affect microbreweries (limited license breweries) which produce small batches of beer for sale to retailers and distributors in and out of the state. It would also affect brewpubs (restricted license breweries) which brew small batches of beer for sale at adjoining restaurants. New Jersey’s brewpubs and microbreweries include Iron Hill Brewery in Maple Shade, Flying Fish Brewing Co. in Cherry Hill and Tun Tavern in Atlantic City.

The bill would:

• Permit brew pubs, to increase their annual production to 10,000 barrels a year, up from 3,000.

• Allow brew pubs to distribute their product to liquor stores and restaurants through the wholesale distribution system. Currently, brewpubs may only sell their product in the restaurant immediately adjoining the brewery.

• Increase the current cap on the number of brewpubs a company may open in New Jersey, by raising the limit on plenary retail consumption licenses for brewpubs from two to 10.

• Permit brewpubs to offer samples of their product on site as well as off site with a permit from the Alcohol Beverage Control director, at places such as fairs or charity events.

• Permit microbreweries to sell beer brewed at the licensed location for consumption on premises as part of a brewery tour. Also would allow microbreweries to sell a limited amount of beer for off-site consumption.

• Allow microbreweries to offer samples of their product both on and off the premises, as currently permitted by the state’s wineries.

“Brewpubs and microbreweries at one time catered to a niche market, generally made up of beer enthusiasts,” said Senator Norcross. “But the interest in craft beer has been fast-growing and our laws have not kept pace with demand, leaving us lagging in production when compared to our regional competitors. At a time when companies are clamoring to be freed from our restrictive laws and given the opportunity to grow, we must take the necessary steps to help them thrive.”

The bill (S-641/A-1277) now advances to the full Legislature for a vote.

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