Food Freedom

New Jersey Regulators Crack Down on Craft Beer

New Jersey’s lousy craft beer rules are an affront to free speech and consumer choice


Last week, New Jersey regulators pumped the brakes on the state's craft beer industry. The state's Alcohol Beverage Control board (ABC) issued a special ruling that restricts breweries in the state in a number of ways—including who, what, when, and how they can serve.

The new rules replace others the ABC had planned to adopt last year. Facing pushback from brewers, the ABC decided to pull back and ponder the rules.

James Graziano, acting ABC director, said in a statement announcing the new rules that the ABC chose to work with "the very few, very vocal licensees who felt their views were not adequately represented." Yet after all that pondering and listening to breweries, the special ruling itself notes that it's "substantially similar" to the 2018 ruling.

Under the new rules, a brewery still may not sell food but may provide delivery menus to patrons. Yay. A brewery also may not allow a food truck to park on its premises but may allow food trucks or other food vendors to sell food to brewery customers off premises (duh) provided the brewery "does not coordinate with the food vendor or food trucks."

The special ruling is grounded in an effort—an impermissible one, I'd argue—to protect restaurants, bars, and liquor stores in the state from competition.

The state's powerful restaurant lobby, for example, opposes "any legislation that would relax the state's uniquely restrictive rules on [brewery] tasting rooms, such as allowing food service and eliminating a requirement that every patron must tour the facility each time s/he visits."

Star-Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine, in an excellent column lambasting the new ABC rules this week, notes that New Jersey courts have determined that "laws cannot be written or interpreted to protect liquor license holders from competition." Mulshine cites an earlier liquor case in the state that held "a desire to protect other businesses from economic competition is an impermissible consideration."

Historically, New Jersey hasn't been known as a beer state—craft or otherwise. According to the Brewers Association, which represents the interests of craft brewers around the country—and which I've written about many times, including here and here—New Jersey is ranked 45 out of 51 in U.S. breweries per capita. The state also ranks 47th in gallons of beer produced per capita. That puts the state just behind Kansas and just ahead of Arkansas, each of which is probably known more for its dry counties than its beers.

Despite these figures, New Jersey's craft beer scene has grown in bunches in recent years, thanks in large part to a 2012 law that helped bolster the state's craft beer scene. The special ruling, the ABC says, was intended to clarify that state law.

But clarity doesn't appear to be the agency's forte. When it comes to regulation and competition, New Jersey's ABC appears to misunderstand a lot, including the purpose of the breweries it regulates. For example, the special ruling states that the ABC's vision for regulating breweries in the state involves restricting what breweries may sell and to whom so "that consumers could become more interested in the craft beers and would want to buy them at" New Jersey liquor stores, restaurants, and bars. In the eyes of the ABC, in other words, breweries in the state exist largely for the purpose of promoting other businesses regulated by the ABC.

Rather strangely, the New Jersey Brewers Association, which represents many craft brewers in the state, released a statement last week applauding the new ABC rules. I reached out to Alexis Degan, executive director of the NJBA, who clarified the statement in a series of emails to me, explaining, basically, that the rules proposed last year were far worse, and that the NJBA hopes to work with lawmakers moving forward to improve the law.

"When it comes to the rules, we recognize that it is time to engage the Legislature in crafting a clearer statute to protect the rights of the breweries to advertise without limit the events which the ABC Director has now said we can host," Degan tells me.

Degan also accepted my characterization that the new rules are less awful than those proposed last year and less terrible than they might have been.

She's right. Among the improvements over the earlier proposed rules, Degan notes the new rules removed caps on the number of events a brewery can host. That's true. But the new rules also limit to 25 the number of events a brewery can market publicly. That's something Degan and the NJBA hope to change through the legislative process. But the marketing cap is also so arbitrary (among other problems) that it could be ripe for a brewery to challenge the limit on First Amendment grounds, whether or not the legislature moves to amend the law.

New Jersey's lousy craft beer rules should evolve. They, like the state ABC's understanding of craft beer, will evolve. And craft brewers and consumers in New Jersey will be better off for it.

NEXT: Fentanyl Is Not a Nuke, and Drug Dealers Are Not Terrorists

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  1. Sounds like New Jersey could use a Tree of Liberty brewery.

    1. Atlanta craft brew scene is amazing, really. Food trucks on site, huge variety of beers, open carry in public spaces. Who’d have thought the south would be the tip of the spear on this.

      1. NJ, more like the shaft than the tip…

      2. Actually, the tip of the spear was Portand and Denver.

  2. I reached out to Alexis Degan, executive director of the NJBA, who clarified the statement in a series of emails to me, explaining, basically…

    …that you catch more regulatory flies with mead than with vinegar.

    1. Flies love cider more than anything.

  3. Progs are uptight and bitter kill joys.

    1. Orwell’s 1984 was published today, June 8, 1949.

      Happy Birthday, 1984!!!

      1. Read it before it’s banned.

        1. Too late,

    2. Yes, they are. However this strikes me as more a case of “If there’s a government agency for ‘X’, it will try to regulate ‘X'”. . That there even IS an Alcoholic Beverage Control Board nearly 90 years after the repeal of Prohibition is an affront. Naturally the drones that make up such a board pass regulations; if they didn’t somebody might cut their budget. And if they pass regulations the citizens don’t like the fight will be about the regulations, and probably nobody will ask the question “Why do we have such a board int he first place?”

      1. Hey, what do you expect useless, bureaucratic busybodies to do for a living?

        1. We could pay them to stY home, rent out the offices, and be way ahead.

          1. Meanwhile, take a train to Manhattan, change at Grand Central, and head east on the New Haven Line….

            Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont signed a bill expanding the capabilities of small business owners in the craft brewing, winemaking and distilling industry to expand their market share and increase the amount of alcohol they can sell to consumers for off-premise consumption Wednesday.

            The legislation, Senate Bill 647, rolls back regulations in the state’s liquor laws dating back to the 1930s, which had been preventing the craft beer industry — a booming source of revenue that includes regional craft breweries, microbreweries, brew pubs and contract brewing companies — from further growing.

            Under the bill, the amount of beer craft brewers can sell to customers for off-premises consumption increases from nine liters to nine gallons, four manufacturer beer permits are consolidated into one and a craft cafe permit is established to enable manufacturer permittees to sell other alcohol made in Connecticut for on-premises consumption.

            The bill had support from both Rs and Ds. The tourism industry was behind it. Now is when the “summer people” start coming out to stay for the season, in the CT communities on Long Island Sound, and “down the shore” in Jersey. The clods in Hartford were smart, for once, while the Trenton folks were boneheads.

            Newark still has a macrobrewery , built and operated by Anheuser-Busch back in 1951. One wonders if A-B’s foreign masters harrumphed at anything that might divert consumption of Bud Light and Rolling Rock into the enjoyment of beer that actually tastes good. No such behemoths in CT.

            1. Breweries actually smell good . And the A-B brewery by the airport makes wait for a plane a little more pleasant when the wind is right .

      2. “That there even IS an Alcoholic Beverage Control Board nearly 90 years after the repeal of Prohibition is an affront. Naturally the drones that make up such a board pass regulations; if they didn’t somebody might cut their budget.” As far as I know, every state has a similar agency, and most of them aren’t such a**holes.

        Or did I find the answer right there? Based on a sample of one New Jerseyan I worked with when I was in the Air Force, 100% of New Jerseyans are peculiar, to put it politely. Perhaps the problem with New Jersey government is that they hire New Jerseyans for this board and other state agencies, and elect them to the legislature and governorship.

  4. OT post: Good reads to be had at …

    Today’s Agenda
    How trade war could turn to war war.
    Elizabeth Warren’s trade plan is downright Trumpian.
    The world must stop Sudan drifting into new chaos.
    Fiat and Renault really need a deal.

    1. Across the pond.

      Handshakes could be banned at work to avoid sexual harassment ‘grey area’

      1. That reminds me, even if a woman is over 40 and flirting with you on the beach, she’s not old enough to bring to your hotel room if her knee jerk reaction is to call her brother on her cell phone when you mention your ex-wife … unless she puts you on the phone to talk to her brother and he says he wants to join the conversation with you and his sister back in the hotel. I’m still getting used to the dating norms in the Middle East. And I thought cyberdates with Arab guys involved a learning curve. 😉

        1. does that mean you have permission to nail his sister? asking for a friend

          1. It probably means he wants to know you by sight. If he finds out you nailed his sister and “has to” kill you, it would be embarrassing to knife the wrong man.

  5. Today’s Agenda
    How trade war could turn to war war.
    Elizabeth Warren’s trade plan is downright Trumpian.
    The world must stop Sudan drifting into new chaos.
    Fiat and Renault really need a deal.

  6. […] New Jersey Regulators Crack Down on Craft Beer  Reason […]

  7. Did the founders omit any constitutional prohibitions about laws favoring one business or type of business over another because they could not imagine that happening, or because such interference is so ingrained they took it as given?

    1. The Founders left most areas of police powers to the states and as you suggest, at the time of the adoption of the COTUS regulation of public morality and the like was widely considered to be “the public’s, hence the state’s,” responsibility.

      Remember, the prohibitionists did not need the Eighteenth Amendment because the COTUS did not allow the “government” to prohibit or otherwise regulate the sale of alcohol, they needed it because the COTUS did not allow the federal government to prohibit or otherwise regulate the sale of alcohol.

      1. This country was built on cider, beer, whiskey and rum. Whether state or federal, it is a powerful comment on the wisdom of the founders and the fidelity of the legislatures to that wisdom that an Eighteenth Amendment was required to finally give the prohibitionists their fantasy world. NJ (and other states) pandering to entrenched business interests is not about morals; it is about who best greases their palms.

    2. Back then it was understood that certain forms of commerce would only be carried out by the specially connected who could get a charter from the crown or after the revolution, from the state or from Congress. There were disputes about shipping lanes and territories and of course there was the government monopoly post office.

  8. Of course, the very last thing an agency regulating alcoholic beverages would ever want is to make food available to drinkers to cut down on excess drunkenness.

    Their next regulation: banning craft brewery customers from using Uber and Lyft.

  9. Who Would want too live in NJ ? Vote with your feet.

    1. I left in 2007 with no regrets, other than the occasional jones for the food.

      1. same here,. same year even. outside of the food i miss *nothing*.

        and the jersey shore sucks.

    2. I left in 1973 and every visit back for funerals of friends and relatives confirms that it was a great move. The move from Connecticut to Tennessee was just as good.

    3. It’s difficult to find kosher meat outside of New Jersey and equally oppressive New York. Otherwise, I would be more open to moving out. In related news, I’m getting better at reading pigeon body language and walking close to them without scaring them enough for them to fly away. When you don’t speak the local language (am currently in Tel Aviv) or have your own wifi, you need to find you own entertainment. According to the Torah, pigeons are kosher, and you can slaughter them by pinching their heads off …

  10. Trump denies ‘fist bumping’ the queen.

    When asked by Fox News’ Laura Ingraham if he fist-bumped the Queen, Mr Trump said: “I did not, but I had a great relationship, we had a really great time.

    1. Trump denies ‘fist bumping’ the queen.

      OK, then, but did he do the “bump and grind”
      with her? Or perhaps the “horizontal bop”? Or the “Saturday Night Ride”?

      Most of all… Is there video to be had?

      1. 17 seconds in…

        Did Donald Trump greet the Queen with a fist bump?

    2. But did he grab her by the pussy?


        1. When has that ever stopped him?

  11. In related news, New Jersey–despite a governor who campaigned on legalizing marijuana–can’t get a bill to legalize it passed through the state legislature.

    “It’s hard to do it legislatively, I admit,” said [Democrat] New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.”

    The reason it’s hard to do legislatively in New Jersey is because socially conservative Republicans control the state legislature.

    . . . nah, just kidding! Democrats control both houses by a 2-1 margin.

    So what’s the hang-up? Why can’t the progressives of New Jersey pass a bill to legalize marijuana–much less liberalize their beer laws?

    I think the idea that cultural conservative bible-thumpers are the reason Democrat politicians can’t get things done should have gone out the window with the John Birchers and their fears of “Reds under the bed”. It just isn’t about Republicans and bible-thumpers. It’s about progressives ideology getting in the way. Progressives believe that the legitimate purpose of government is to force individuals to make sacrifices both for the good of society and for their own good. What part of that philosophy lends itself to letting people make their own choices about marijuana or beer?

    Put it in a referendum–if the legislature will let you. A progressive legislature is loathe to let people make choices for themselves. That’s just not what they’re about.

    1. Progressives push the ideas that all the good things (good in their minds at least) must be mandated, and that all the bad things (bad in their minds at least) must be prohibited… Leaving us ZERO personal freedoms, of course!

      1. That was what was wrong with the socons back in the 1980s, too.

        Everybody who hated the social conservatives of the 1980s for that should hate the progressives of today for the exact same reason.

        Hippies morphing into yuppies was nowhere near as strange as the transformation of baby boomers and their kids turning into their square ass parents and grandparents–but that’s exactly what happened.

        There is no one more conformist than the people on the left these days. It’s the red scare all over again inflicted on everyone who doesn’t conform.

        1. Proggies and other drug warriors are claiming that teenage brains aren’t fully developed, and need to be protected. So, no otherwise legal booze, nor drugs – tobacco and nicotine products included, – nor vaping, which helps folks quit nicotine, nor nuthin’ until one is 21.

          Suggestions anyone with such a fragile brain ought to wait to be 21 to vote will be met with cries of horror. Now, if we follow this logic, should doctors refuse to aid in transition from one’s “old gender” to one’s “real gender” if that involves drugs or surgery for a member of the under-21 cohort? Then there’s trying folks in adult criminal court, if they have those tender balls of mush between their ears. Signing up for the military? That will have to wait, too, right?


          1. Who says that a brain that developed entirely without any experience with alcohol or other drugs is ideal?

    2. It’s New Jersey. They’ll legalize just as soon as enough legislators figure out how to craft a bill so that their brothers-in-law et al can make a buck off of it.

    3. Proggy Democrats in the guise of FDR’s “liberals” passed the first national ban on marijuana in the 1930’s. Thirty years later, the first national figure with many followers that were old enough to vote to propose legalizing marijuana was William F Buckley – an extreme conservative. Nixon rejected a report recommending legalization – he was supposedly a conservative, but actions such as imposing the first peacetime price controls make him a “liberal fascist” in reality.

      And Democrats, Republicans, and even the Green Party didn’t call for marijuana legalization for another 40 years, until polls showed national support – and they’re still dragging their heels. Proggies just hate giving up a law that lets their prosecutors selectively jail people.

  12. More evidence of the Democratic Party’s gradual embrace of the Koch / Reason open borders agenda.

    @BetoORourke says the elimination of the citizenship exam is “something for us to think about” in response to a panelist characterizing the test as another structural barrier for immigrants.

    My position is that anyone who enters the United States should be granted immediate citizenship, plus voting rights if they can pass for 16 years old. Getting rid of the citizenship exam is a good start in that direction.


    1. What a great idea. Anyone should be able to come to America and collect welfare and what have you. That’s only fair.

    2. Plunkitt of Tammanny Hall couldn’t iv said it bether!

  13. I dunno. If they are cracking down because they are vile tasting swill…I can see their point. Craft beers, by and large, are horrid.

    Any other reason? Not so much.

    1. If they are horrid, then second time sales will be nil and the they will go out of business with no effort required by the state. So why does the state need to get involved?

    2. Bud Lite is horrid. What’s your favorite beer?

  14. up to I saw the bank draft of $7781, I did not believe that my best friend was like they say actually taking home money in there spare time from there new laptop.. there uncle started doing this 4 only 22 months and at present cleared the loans on there mini mansion and purchased Dodge. this is where I went,

    1. You had me until Dodge. Then I threw up a little.

    2. The stock, FCA, or a Dodge vehicle?

  15. There should be two laws regarding alcohol. Age limit and BAC for driving.

    Everything else is unnecessary and frivolous.

    In Minnesota a bar had its license suspended for several days because they served spotted cow beer which apparently isn’t on the approved list. F-ing morons!

    1. There should be two laws regarding alcohol. Age limit and BAC for driving.

      Yeah, age limit being old enough to pick up the glass, and BAC being whatever point the individual can control the vehicle at… the individual , not the the average 70 kg white male of European descent that we learned about in human physiology.

    2. Why should there be a specific age limit for alcohol? Why would it not simply be whatever the age-of-majority is?

      And why a BAC? A BAC not only doesn’t measure impairment, it doesn’t even measure the level of ethanol in your blood. It measures the concentration of a chemical component that several different compounds (including ethanol) have in your breath – and then some algorithms are run in the background to generate a ‘BAC’ reading deemed ‘good-enough’ by the manufacturer.

      No, you are not allowed to see the algorithm.

      And no, the courts care about nothing more than that there’s a tissue bare bit of ‘science’ covering their arses.

  16. List of things New Jersey regulators are not cracking down on:

    Empty set

  17. Mexican businesses and politicians are worried that if the Mexican government doesn’t or can’t hold back the tide of asylum seekers from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, then they’ll just be facing the same tariffs again.

    “Unless we really solve the immigration issue in a way that’s intelligent and that respects human rights, the threat of tariffs will always be present, as long as President Trump is in office,” said Gerónimo Gutiérrez, who served as Mexico’s ambassador to the U.S. for the last two years of the administration of former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.”

    Has Mexico considered paying us to build a wall?

    1. Yes Mexico blinked.

      More news not on MSM.

    2. Wall? Where, down by Honduras?

      1. Trump was willing to shut the U.S. government down over $5 billion for the wall.

        Is the Mexican government likely to lose more than $5 billion in tax revenue because of tariffs? How much does the threat of tariffs hanging over their heads cost them?

        If the concern is that Trump might hurt them badly with tariffs at any time if they don’t stem the tide of asylum seekers and getting rid of that threat is as easy as contributing $5 billion to Trump’s wall, then floating $5 billion in debt to pay for Trump’s wall might be a good investment for them.

  18. Just North of Atlantic City, Atlantic Highlands sheltered organized mischief marketing felony beer and liquor in 1929. Coolidge and Congress had passed the 5&10 law with 5 years on a chain gang and a fine worth 30 pounds of gold. October 17 news stories rang out BOOZE EMPIRE FINANCING CHARGED TO BANKS after 35 places were raided with radio station, observatory, ships, docks, warehouses–all financed by commercial banks while Al Capone’s brother was questioned abt taxes. Then the stock market suddenly crashed–damndest coincidence! So, is this a replay?

  19. Fuck it! I am this close to wanting to get a bit creative. Although, at the moment, I’m just planning on acting like a Quaker at some of the non-American embassies in Tel Aviv. They all have different level of security. I scoped them out on my morning walk today.
    The Swiss embassy is so laid back that a homeless guy could probably sleep on their front porch at night without anyone complaining. The Turkish embassy is like a fortress, but I think I can give them some J Witness pamphlets if I feel like annoying them. And that security guard at the British embassy was rather polite when I grabbed their fence.


  20. I don’t know what’s worse, living in PA and having the PLCB, or being right next to New Jersey and having Jersey refugees flock to Victory and every microbrewery along our eastern border.

  21. […] regulations in New Jersey threaten to strangle the state’s craft brewery […]

  22. […] regulations in New Jersey threaten to strangle the state’s craft brewery […]

  23. […] regulations in New Jersey threaten to strangle the state’s craft brewery […]

  24. […] million. You can understand why bars and restaurants might find the playing field uneven. Indignant voices are technically correct that these new we’re-trying-’em’-out regs will cause more […]

  25. Why would anyone want to live in the liberal cesspool also known as The People’s Republic of New Jerksey.

  26. […] million. You can understand why bars and restaurants might find the playing field uneven. Indignant voices are technically correct that these new we’re-trying-’em’-out regs will cause more headaches […]

  27. Fran Lebowitz on the secret to happiness: “First get out of new Jersey.”
    I did just that 62 years ago. Never regretted.

  28. […] in this way that New Jersey’s awful, backsliding new craft beer regulations, which I wrote about last week, hardly stand […]

  29. […] in this way that New Jersey’s awful, backsliding new craft beer regulations, which I wrote about last week, hardly stand […]

  30. […] in this way that New Jersey’s awful, backsliding new craft beer regulations, which I wrote about last week, hardly stand […]

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