Jersey City officials hosted a press conference at 902 Brewing Co. this afternoon to urge state leaders to repeal new brewery rules that went into effect at the beginning of the month.
“New Jersey has been a national leader when it comes to innovation that has been spearheaded by our breweries, our micobreweries, and distilleries. And the challenges and hardship that these small businesses face as a result of the global pandemic is not unlike the hardships faced by many other small businesses,” said Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-33).
“And just as their on the heels of recovery from the pandemic and getting into the swing of things, to promulgate this regulation creates artificial barriers to the success and the economic recovery of these innovators and these small businesses doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.”
The chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee added that 902 employs 16 people, has had their contract in place since 2014, but only received their certificate of occupancy in March 2020.
Starting July 1st, the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control laid out several new brewery regulations including limiting events on-site to 25 a year, 52 private parties a year, mandating virtual or in-person tours before serving alcohol, disallowing food service and coordinating with food trucks, and prohibiting serving coffee.
Mukherji also said that if the state ABC would not heed their call to rescind these new rules, he and several legislative colleagues had plans to introduce a bill to fix it.
Ward E Councilman James Solomon lamented that the new rules were “absurd,” particularly the one about not being able to serve coffee, and the end result was that multiple small businesses will suffer.
“The rules are designed to protect big companies, they’re trying to protect people that have spent lots and lots of money on liquor licenses. The answer with the challenge with liquor licenses is to pass Assemblymember Mukherji’s reform bill, not to impose new regulations on small businesses,” he stated.
“I think it’s really important that we stand here with a unified voice asking for change in Trenton: don’t create unnecessary restrictions, allow free, fair, and open competition, and create fair rules for our breweries.”
Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey called the new regulations “really absurd” since they “break down the local ecosystem” of support between small businesses and non-profits.
Councilwoman-at-Large Amy DeGise, Ward A Councilwoman Denise Ridley, and Ward F Councilman Frank “Educational” Gilmore also joined in support of breweries and Mukherji’s bill.
“These regulations go against everything the state has been working on to build upon our in demand occupations, especially in demand occupations such as the hospitality and restaurant industry that is significant throughout New Jersey, but especially here in Hudson County and Jersey City,” DeGise stated.
902 COO Colby Janisch noted that they aren’t asking to be a restaurant or a bar that serves wine and/or liquor, but are simply trying to maintain “a fun taproom experience.”
“We want to keep paying musicians to come in and play their guitars, we want to keep having yoga night where we have local yoga instructors come in, we want to keep having local trivia night where the common theme being we have a ton of local vendors who we’ve had a great time working with, our customers love them, we love them – we just want to have a good taproom experience,” he explained.
“These rules, they do seem like overreach and they just seem plain wrong.”
Brian Kulbacki, the owner of Departed Soles Brewing Co. and served as the emcee of the event, said that he spent over $250,000 on permits, fees, and registrations over seven years – more than the average amount of a liquor license.
During a question and answer session with the media, Mukherji declined to get into the specifics of his draft bill in hopes of being able to negotiate with the state first, though added anyone at the presser could reasonably guess what the legislation will aim to do if it’s needed.
While he wasn’t in attendance today, Mayor Steven Fulop tweeted that the state should roll back to the new brewery restrictions earlier this week.
“Trenton should support breweries not put up obstacles- furthermore we need large reform on how NJ approaches liquor licenses overall 1) remove the big $ obstacles to procuring a liquor license 2) allow beer/wine like NYC w/annual fee 3) local level license control,” he wrote.