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Toms River hopes for boost from brewery ordinance

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Pass the suds: A new ordinance in Toms River permits craft brewers and distillers to set up shop downtown.

The amendment to the Township's Land Use and Development Regulations was announced recently by Downtown Toms River, the Ocean County seat’s Business Improvement District. The change was set in motion last year, when a graduate of the BID’s small business incubator wanted to start a brewpub downtown.

“We hooked them up with a local property owner, but when they started moving forward with plans, they found out that sort of thing wasn’t allowed downtown,” Downtown Toms River Executive Director Alizar Zorojew said. “We were disappointed and we wanted to see what we could do to change that.”

Previously, breweries in Toms River were only allowed in industrial zones. At the time Zorojew’s team set out to bring booze downtown, he said the township was making changes to its master plan. With the support of the town's Culture Committee and Planning Department, they succeeded.

Now brewpubs, as well as microbreweries and artisan distillers under 5,000 square feet, might find a new home.

“Our focus is to keep Toms River clean, safe, and happy—this particular thing really relates to the happy part,” Zorojew said.

Economically, it doesn’t hurt, either. According to the Brewer’s Association, craft beer has an economic impact in New Jersey of $251.54 per capita of 21+ adults, or over $1.6 billion overall.

Downtown Toms River currently has only two bars, and they’re on opposite ends of town. Some restaurants partner with local wineries, which allows them to sell their wine without a liquor license. “We’re hoping to link those bars downtown with other options in between,” Zorojew said.

And people are taking interest. Zorojew said at least one unspecified brewery is in negotiations with a property, and one distillery is exploring lease options. The BID has fielded several calls of further interest beyond the two.

These businesses will join the ranks of the 98 craft breweries, 83 limited-license craft breweries, 15 brewpubs, and at least 22 distilleries throughout New Jersey.

“Our Social Committee [at the BID] looked at is from a quality of life standpoint, and there’s certainly a demand for this from our residents. This is just another industry that we’re welcoming to enhance the culinary spaces of downtown,” Zorojew said.

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Gabrielle Saulsbery

Gabrielle Saulsbery

Albany, N.Y. native Gabrielle Saulsbery is a staff writer for NJBIZ and the newest thing in New Jersey. You can contact her at gsaulsbery@njbiz.com.

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