What does the ABC Director change mean for NJ breweries?

Over at South Jersey Beer Scene, John Couchoud has written up a great summation of the dramatic changes late last week with our state alcohol regulators, “What does the change of ABC leadership mean for NJ breweries? How did we get here?”.  It’s been seven weeks (or forty-nine days to sound dramatic) since the craft beer world in our state was upended by the “Special Ruling” released by then-Director of the ABC, David Rible.  An administrative directive meant to quell the chaos in our market, it instead was greeted with outcry and a largely negative reaction from both breweries and the general public before it was suspended two weeks later (or five weeks ago).  On Friday, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced that Director Rible would be stepping down to pursue other interests and Governor Phil Murphy was nominating Judge James B. Graziano of Metuchen as his replacement leading the regulatory authority.

In the feature at SJ Beer Scene, John opens with an overview of the recent turmoil in our industry and the fallout from the Special Ruling:

Rible had been under public scrutiny after the release of the Special Ruling on Limited License Breweries on September 21st that caused a ground swell of support for local breweries and associated businesses. This ruling, which would have made big changes to the way breweries could operate, has since been suspended pending “further review”.  The Independent Craft Brewers of NJ, a cooperative partnership formed by a group of New Jersey Brewers in the late Summer of 2018, collected a petition with over 30,000 signatures from state residents in the days following the ruling which, in addition to several state and local politicians voicing their opposition, no doubt was a factor in the suspension of the ruling.

In addition, the legislative reactions are discussed, with the proposed bills – A4594 by Assemblymen Howarth and DeAngelo; S3154 by Senator Gopal – that may potentially add clarity and settle the debate about the roles of breweries, their tasting rooms, and our role in the continually emerging “native” New Jersey craft beer market.  Our industry’s positive impact on our communities and surrounding businesses are included along with the opposition to these new retail roles (allowed by the 2012 Amendment) from certain special interests.

We could also certainly debate who is behind these views.  We know that big beer is clearly losing market share to craft beer, their pockets are deep, and they have a large lobby.  We also know that there are some bars and restaurants that feel breweries are overextending themselves in the way they run their tasting rooms, especially since they have paid a ridiculous amount of money to have a liquor license which is another huge issue here in New Jersey.  Without a doubt, there are also towns that have made it hard for breweries in response to owners of bars and restaurants exerting pressure on the mayor’s office.

Rather than spoil this feature any further, we recommend you head over to South Jersey Beer Scene and read it – and share it with your friends since it sums up much of the recent events and changes with a view of the journey to come for breweries.  John also briefly speaks with one of our own founders as well as the new Executive Director of the New Jersey Brewers Association for their observations on these leadership changes, and what it might mean for our mission of advancing New Jersey’s craft breweries towards common sense and reasonable regulations.

John Couchoud is not only the Co-Founder, Editor, and Podcast Co-Host of South Jersey Beer Scene, but also a member of the Independent Craft Brewers of New Jersey Forum covering the issues affecting our industry. John also Co-Hosts the What’s On Tap Radio Show with Gary Monterosso and Tara Nurin heard locally on 99.9 FM and streaming from SNJ Today.