These New Jersey Small Businesses In Limbo Waiting On Trenton
In a world full of contentious partisan politics and volatile social media debates, the New Jersey State Senate and Assembly unanimously passed a legislative bill that would lift the aggressive restrictions on Craft Alcohol Producers. But the small business owners of Craft Breweries, Distilleries, and Wineries are still waiting for Legislative Bill S3038/A4630 to be signed into law seven months after it landed on the Governor's desk.
But as we wrote about in detail a few months ago, Governor Phil Murphy has given a Conditional Veto to this Legislative Bill that was passed unanimously by Republicans and Democrats. The Governor wants Liquor License Reform in New Jersey that includes allowing Municipalities to reclaim certain inactive liquor licenses along with creating a new Liquor License Category to allow alcohol sales at shopping mall food courts.
The New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control in response to this Legislation being in limbo has decided to extend their pause of Craft Alcohol Producer regulations until January 16th of this year. The pause was supposed to expire on December 31st of 2023 and like the small business owners of New Jersey, the ABC is waiting on the Politicians in Trenton to figure out this situation.
The current session of the New Jersey Legislature ends on January 9th so the State Senators and Assemblyman only have a few days to rectify this situation. Since everyone was on holiday break for multiple weeks in December and many Political Offices were up for re-election this past November, nothing has been done with this issue for months. While all the State Senators and Assemblyman have been distracted by holidays and election campaigns, the small business owners of New Jersey's Craft Breweries, Distilleries, and Wineries have been waiting for real answers.
When I spoke to Craft Brewery owners around Cape May County during 2023, there was universal frustration with the delays by the New Jersey Politicians to rectify this state of limbo they have been put in. Two of those small business owners who agreed to speak on the record about their frustrations were Slack Tide Brewing Co-Owner Jason Campbell and Gusto Brewing Co-Owner Zach Pashley.
Since opening in 2015, Slack Tide Brewing Company has grown into one of the most popular Craft Alcohol Producers in South Jersey. Their growing popularity made it necessary to move into a bigger location last summer on Route 9 South in Dennis Township. Slack Tide Brewing hosts charity fundraising events at their property and the new location allows for extensive more parking for customers than the small parking lot at their old location on Route 83.
Jason Campbell, who co-owns Slack Tide Brewing with his brother Tadhg, sent this statement to me when I asked for his perspective on the limbo Craft Breweries are in due to this political stand-off between the Governor and the New Jersey Legislature:
"The ball is squarely in Governor Murphy's court to sign this legislation that benefits all of the breweries and small businesses affected by the impacts of the Special Ruling (editor note: the ruling the NJ ABC extended the deadline from December 31, 2023 to January 16, 2024). We at Slack Tide Brewing hope (Governor Murphy) signs the legislation as soon as possible that will benefit all of New Jersey."
Gusto Brewing Company, located in North Cape May where the old Bayshore 8 Theater use to operate, just recently celebrated its fifth anniversary because they survived the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020, which is significant considering many Craft Breweries have closed in New Jersey over the last couple of years. Zack Pashley, who co-owns with his wife Adrianna, gave me this statement when I spoke to him about the subject a few months ago:
"We just feel duped. The bill waiting on Governor Murphy’s desk is the common sense product of, not only the voice of a unanimous legislature, but of tens of thousands of New Jersey citizens’ support too. We welcome all the rules that regulate the safe manufacture and sale of alcohol, 100%. But when the same entity responsible for regulating those things also has their hand in how many times we can have live music or advertise that we’re watching a Phillies game. One of these things is not like the (other regulations that are current New Jersey law)."
According to the New Jersey Legislature website, the State Senate and Assembly as scheduled to be in session on Thursday January 4th, Monday January 8th, and Tuesday January 9th. After those three days, they are scheduled to "return to work" on January 25th, which is nine days after the New Jersey ABC extension of pausing the aggressive regulation of Craft Alcohol Producers is set to expire.
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Gallery Credit: Josh Hennig/Townsquare Media