With a more business-friendly director at the helm, the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control has opened the door for spirits to join wine and beer in the state's growing craft alcohol industry.
Jersey Artisan Distilling, which will produce dark rum in Fairfield, hopes to have the spirit available by April. Bourbon, whiskey and seasonal fruit offerings also are in the works for the company.
Louis Cappelli, an attorney with Florio, Perrucci, Steinhardt & Fader LLC, said ABC director Michael Halfacre's more business-friendly approach to opening up the craft alcohol industry in the state will create more opportunities for entrepreneurs to follow in Jersey Artisan's footprints.
Cappelli said Halfacre is "the first in the long time to realize Prohibition has ended."
"He understands that these types of businesses create jobs, create tax revenue and create choices for consumers," Cappelli said. "I give him a lot of credit for his understanding of the business world."
Cappelli said he thinks the industry will take off, similarly to the wine industry in New Jersey. He lobbied for the direct shipping bill that took effect May 1 of last year, which is receiving high praise from winemakers for opening another avenue of business.
New York has offered microdistillery licenses since 2002, and just over the border in Warwick, the Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery makes and sells wine, hard ciders, cordials and spirits. Their liquor specialties include fruit liqueurs and gin.
Bills in New Jersey have been introduced in both houses to create a craft distillery license for smaller manufacturers who intend to make less than 20,000 gallons of spirits a year. The law already allows mixing, bottling and selling of spirits within the state.