Two years ago, New Jersey lawmakers revised an archaic law that had been a major obstacle to anyone who wanted to launch a start-up brewery in the state. New Jersey’s old law severely restricted craft brewers’ ability to actually sell their beer to visitors of the brewery, thus undermining the economics of on-site bars or tap rooms, which most small operations in other states rely on as an important revenue source, especially in the early stages. The old law even limited how many free samples a brewer could hand out, which proved particularly troublesome for entrepreneurs trying to gain brand recognition and market share, and appeal to consumers’ varied tastes. The new law was intended to put brewpubs, microbreweries and so-called “nanobreweries” on an equal footing with competitors in neighboring states. While this legislation was a welcome step for the craft beer industry, more can be done.
Author: Brett S. Theisen
“Operation Swill”: New Jersey ABC and Division of Criminal Justice Raid 29 Bars and Restaurants That Allegedly Served Cheap Alcohol as “Premium” Brands
On May 23, 2013, New Jersey’s Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa and Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (“ABC”) Director Michael Halfacre announced the details of “Operation Swill,” a year-long investigation involving more than 100 investigators throughout New Jersey. Operation Swill reached its climax one day earlier when ABC and Division of Criminal Justice personnel executed raids on 29 establishments throughout New Jersey suspected of substituting premium alcoholic beverage brands with “well brand spirits,” i.e., non-premium brands. N.J.A.C. § 13:2-23.19 prohibits a licensee from substituting another brand other than ordered by a customer unless agreed to by the customer. Approximately 1,000 bottles were seized during the raids, which will be held for further testing by the ABC and manufacturers.
On May 1, 2012, a law took effect that will allow New Jersey farmers and wineries to skip wholesalers and sell directly to retailers and consumers. The new law grants similar rights to out-of-state wineries and finally cleared the way for the Garden State to begin issuing new winery licenses to growers. While local business and political leaders are hoping the relaxed regulations will encourage further investment in the state’s wine industry, producers, retailers, and wine lovers alike are cheering the increased access to locally-grown wines ahead of the summer tourism season.
On January 17, 2012, Governor Chris Christie signed into law a bill allowing out-of-state winemakers to sell directly to New Jersey consumers and retailers. The bill was in response to the Third Court’s decision in Freeman v. Corzine, which we reviewed on this blog a year ago. The decision invalidated a New Jersey law allowing certain New Jersey farmers and wineries to skip wholesalers and sell directly to retailers and consumers. The Court determined that the law ran afoul of the Constitution’s Dormant Commerce Clause because it imposed restrictions benefiting in-state wineries and farmers at the expense of their out-of-state competitors. This new law is intended to balance the competing rights of in-state and out-of-state wineries.