Breweries are now limited to 25 on-premises special events per year, and are permitted to set up shop at 12 off-premises events as well — but all types of events require the ABC be notified first, at least 10 days in advance.
The ruling issued Monday also tells breweries that they aren’t allowed to give out menus for local food venues that visitors can order in from — a staple offering of limited-license breweries since they haven’t been allowed to serve food — or coordinate with local vendors to serve food at the brewery. It does allow for the offering of snacks like prepackaged crackers and chips, not allowed under previous rules.
ABC Director David Rible, who penned the special ruling, wrote it to clear up the “significant confusion” around what can take place at a brewery. An ABC rule passed in 2012 that allowed for limited-license breweries to give tours and beer tastings to customers was intended to increase retail sales of the beer.
“The 2012 amendment was not intended to establish a new consumption venue at the brewery, with the same privileges as a sports bar or restaurant,” Rible wrote.
The ruling does allow for pop-up type events off premises 12 times a year, something breweries hadn’t yet had the opportunity to do.
Jeff Benfer, owner of Raritan Bay Brewery in Keansburg, said the ruling is a major hit to business.
“We’re a small brewery, very focused on being part of the community here in Keansburg,” he said. “This ruling, by limiting the number of events we can have, prevents us from being part of the community. It’s very bad for small breweries in New Jersey.”
Raritan Bay Brewery opened just six months ago, and for the last three months has had events like trivia and yoga twice or three times a week. They had a fundraiser for a local organization set for this Friday and another in the works for later in the month. Now that they’re limited to 25 events, though, Benfer is unsure they’ll be able to do either.
“We’ll have to be extremely selective about the kind of events we’ll have here,” he said. “If I go ahead with everything I’ve got, I’ll use up like five events in the next week and a half.”
A representative from the ABC did not return request for comment by press time.