NJ breweries sue state over rule saying it kills business


NJ breweries sue state over rule saying it kills business

A Gloucester County brewery has sued New Jersey’s Division of Liquor Control in an attempt to roll back a recently implemented set of rules it says are stifling growth and many brewery owners may be screaming “last call”.

The death of East Greenwich’s Fox Brewery informed the state on Wednesday that it intended to appeal ABC’s special decision, which went into effect July 1. The appeal, which is filed by the nonprofit Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of Death of the Fox. , is seeking to roll back the 18 restrictions the ABC has imposed on craft breweries — including limits on holding public events — which brewers say are a disaster for the fledgling industry.

ABC passed restrictions in 2019 but were never implemented due to the coronavirus pandemic, which ranged from the number and size of on-site televisions (two with screens larger than 65 inches) to the service of food (no cooking allowed, only snacks and food trucks).

But what bothers craft brewers the most is the rule that limits them to 25 public events a year. As usual, the breweries attract customers with weekly events – live music, quizzes and televised sports – but the new rules limit these events to about one every two weeks.

“I’ve hosted two public events since July 1,” Death of the Fox owner Chuck Garrity said. “And my business is 50% off. We have to stop the bleeding now.

An ABC spokeswoman did not comment on the lawsuit on Friday.

Attorney Caleb Trotter of the Pacific Legal Foundation, who is handling the case, said the appeal will focus on how ABC enacted the special rules in 2019. Trotter said that as an organization government regulator, the ABC should have followed the guidelines. New Jersey Administrative Procedure Act, but no.

Trotter said the ABC should have issued a public notice and gathered feedback before adopting the special rules in 2019. Since it didn’t, the rule is invalid, he said.

“ABC worked its way through it all,” Trotter said. “They jumped right in to impose any special governance restrictions as license conditions.”

Trotter claims the ABC rule that limits breweries to advertising only 25 public events a year violates their free speech rights and is therefore unconstitutional. As it stands, any time a brewery owner uses media to advertise, whether on Facebook, Instagram, phone, newspapers, TV, or radio, it counts as an event. ” audience “.

New Jersey began issuing brewery licenses in 2012, allowing on-site use in tasting rooms. Since then, the industry has really taken off, with around 140 breweries across the state.

Many of them have become popular hangouts, including live bands, open-mic nights, and even yoga. But many bars, restaurants, and liquor stores see breweries as competition with their relatively inexpensive liquor licenses.

ABC said in its special decision that it was trying to level the playing field.

Breweries don’t see it that way.

“ABC’s new rules are a transparent attempt to favor one type of business – bars and restaurants – over another – craft breweries,” Trotter said. “Furthermore, the ban on event advertising is an unreasonable attack on breweries’ freedom of expression.”

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With Richard Cowen [email protected] Can be reached.

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