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NJ wineries want shipping restrictions lifted

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The wine cellar at Laurita Winery in New Egypt.
The wine cellar at Laurita Winery in New Egypt. - ()

New Jersey's wine advocacy groups want buyers to be able to purchase their favorite wines online.

Under the current law governing online purchasing, enacted in 2012, wineries that produce more than 250,000 gallons of wine annually are prohibited from shipping directly to homes and businesses.

Senate Bill 2496 calls for eliminating this so-called “capacity cap,” allowing wineries from in and out of the state to sell directly to consumers, up to 12 cases annually to any person over 21 years old.

The Napa, Calif.-based Free the Grapes Coalition, a nationwide winery advocacy group which has backed the bill, said at a Wednesday press conference in Trenton that New Jersey is one of only two states—the  other being Ohio—that places capacity caps on wine producers.

By lifting the restrictions, the coalition argues, New Jersey stands to gain $4 million a year in revenue from licensing fees, sales tax and other taxes levied on wine.

“Bringing New Jersey in line with the rest of the country would be a big boost for wine lovers,” Jeremy Benson, director of the campaign, said in a Wednesday statement. “The barriers in the law are extremely limiting for consumers — and for no good reason.”

Benson said there are more than 9,000 wineries nationwide, but as of 2017 there were only 369 that could ship directly to New Jersey.

Although New Jersey ranks fifth in per-capita wine consumption nationally, the coalition said that as of 2017, the state ranks 15th in the value of wine shipped directly from wineries to consumers.

A June fiscal analyses by the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services said the law would have an “indeterminate” impact on the state’s revenue, because the office could not estimate the wine sales under the law, or how many applicants would seek licenses and pay the corresponding fees.

Senate and Assembly versions of the bill were unveiled in April and May, respectively, and both have Democrat and Republican sponsors.

But, the measure has drawn out the opposition of the New Jersey Liquor Store Alliance, a retail trade-group, which argued the bill would benefit much larger-out-of-state sellers and in turn squash out local competition.

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Daniel J. Munoz

Daniel J. Munoz

Daniel Munoz covers politics and state government for NJBIZ. You can contact him at dmunoz@njbiz.com.

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