Home Events + News How NJ’s New Brewery Laws Are Impacting Local Businesses

How NJ’s New Brewery Laws Are Impacting Local Businesses

by Stephanie Spear
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Legislation recently signed by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has made significant changes to the state’s liquor licensing laws. The legislation is the biggest set of changes to the state’s liquor licensing laws since the end of Prohibition. In particular, the state’s breweries, cideries, and meaderies are applauding the changes, which resolve a 2022 change that drastically limited these businesses’ ability to hold special events. Read on for more about these changes and how local businesses in New Jersey are reacting.

departed soles jersey city beer rankings gluten free beer

^ Departed Soles in Jersey City

Background

In July 2022, a special ruling by the NJABC put a crimp in the way breweries, meaderies, and cideries operate by putting significant restrictions on their ability to host events. At the time, 18 provisions in the special ruling would have impacted New Jersey’s 141 breweries.

Read More: Team Behind Schmitty’s to Open Brewery in Uptown Hoboken

Some had been on the books for a while but loosely enforced, while others were new. Some of the requirements include a limit on private parties and special events hosted at the venue. Game watches and other sports and entertainment-related nights would count toward the venue’s total. Special events would have to be registered in advance through an online portal, including things like karaoke or trivia night. Breweries would be limited in the number of community events they can participate in, such as 5K races or street fairs. Breweries would not be able to promote events.

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Critics said that the overall effect of these rules is to make taprooms operate more like a beer store than a bar or gathering place. An unfortunate outcome of the conversation about limiting beer brewery’s operations is putting restaurant and bar owners against brewery owners. If customers can get food, enjoy live music, watch sports, and do all of the other things that patrons would typically enjoy at a restaurant but at a brewery, it could cut into the restaurants’ business.

 

 

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Changes

In January 2024, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed new legislation that resolves this issue for craft breweries and other issues related to the state’s process for issuing liquor licenses. The legislation, (S-4265/A-5912) is being called the most significant reform of the state’s liquor licensing laws since the end of Prohibition. Notably for breweries, the legislation eases restrictions on events, hosting food vendors, and other prohibitions that many said harmed the breweries’ model. The Hoboken Girl spoke to two local brewery owners to learn about how this rule change impacted them in 2022 and revisited the conversation in 2024. We spoke with Colby Janisch of 902 Brewing in Jersey City, and Brian Kulbacki with Departed Soles in Jersey City.

For Brian Kulbacki, the certainty created by the rule change had an immediate impact. “The next phase of our lease is 2025. It takes two to three years to build out a brewery. We were really considering what was next for us,” he said. “If we want to keep doing this, with any longevity, can New Jersey be our future? It was a really hard look in the mirror. We were looking at moving if this wasn’t signed.”

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Departed Soles Brewing Co. (@departedsoles)


“We’re very happy that it was signed, that we can move forward. But now, we can’t just talk about it, have to be about it. We’ve done a lot to get people to support this. We need to prove that we’re serious about our own contributions,” Brian said. “We had plans in place about what to do if the bill was passed. It’s been pedal to the metal since then.”

Brian said that in the days immediately following the law’s signing, he spent $25K on improvements to the brewery, with more to come. “We added a 600-gallon fermenter once the law passed – that means we can hire some more people. More jobs, give back to the economy on our end. Contribute more to the community, “ he said. “I’ve worked 70-80 hours this week building a brand new bar set up. We were no joke. We were ready for this to be signed.”

Departed Soles New Equipment

^ New equipment at Departed Soles. Photo credit: Brian Kulbacki

Looking ahead, Brian is excited about the brewery being a true gathering space for the community. “It’s huge. We will increase the amount of events, the types of events we can have here. We can work with food trucks, food vendors,” he said. “The snowball effect is that another industry can increase their income by working with us.”

Colby Janisch of 902 Brewing echoed Brian’s optimism about what the future looks like. “We can strategize on how to make the taproom the most fun and engaging for the community,” he said. “It opens up the playbook so we can plan how we want to run it [the taproom]. It’s not some arbitrary limit enforced by the state.”

Before the law was signed, Colby said things were challenging. “It was very chaotic for us. We couldn’t plan events, didn’t know if we needed to hire people to be event managers, do we hire the bands? With limited numbers of events, we didn’t know how we could allocate them. We tried to do three months out but it was so much unknown.”

the taproom at 902 brewing

^ 902 Taproom. Photo credit: Colby Janisch

Now with the restrictions lifted, Colby said that he “[Envisions a] wore vibrant taproom, a broader variety of events. I had to be very cautious but now we have more flexibility.” He continued, “We could get more people interested. We want to try things for parents, have certain teachers come and do a sensory class while parents can have a beer. We can do a lot more different things, easier to try out what works.”

See More: Montclair Brewery: A Place of Community + Delicious Beer

The teams behind both breweries look forward to welcoming visitors back to the taprooms for special events and are excited about partnering with other local businesses and vendors for special events. Both Colby and Brian described the taprooms and their businesses as part of the community, and want the spaces to be a place for gathering.

Departed Soles

^ Departed Soles. Photo credit: Brian Kulbacki

Brian shared, “A gigantic thank you to anyone that did take time to send a letter, contact their rep. 2023 was a tough year on hospitality in general. Breweries, distilleries, bars and restaurants. Lots of closures, like Corgi Distillery”. He continued, “Times are tough, but every time one of these places close, a lot of people lose their jobs. There are only so many jobs to go around. The small businesses really need the help.”

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