New Special Ruling from the State! We Could Use Your Help!
At the brewery this week:
- We have a Randall with Peppercorn & Jalapeños today & tomorrow!
- Our lemon Shandy “When Life Gives You Lemons” is available at Tacos El Tio & by the bottle at Taunton Forge Liquors!
- Keep an eye out for two beer releases coming up!
If you’ve been on social media this week, I’m sure you’ve seen the whirlwind surrounding the #SaveNJBeer movement. On Monday a “special ruling” was handed down directly from the NJ Alcohol Beverage Control Director, Dave Rible. Arbitrary and capricious rules were made in an attempt to clarify brewery rules. In short, we want the same privileges that Wineries, Meaderies & Craft Distilleries in NJ have. We do not want the same privileges that a bar has, nor do we have anything like a bar has. I’m going to try to as briefly as possible, cover the basics.
- Sign the Petition: https://brewedindependent.org/petition/
- Link to the special ruling: https://www.nj.gov/oag/abc/downloads/Special-Ruling-Authorizing-Certain-Activities-by-Holders-of-Limi.pdf
What are these new rules for breweries? Here’s the big ones:
- 25 “Live Events” per year
- 52 Private Parties Per Year
- 12 Off Site Tasting Permits
- Soda can be sold (Only if we make it from scratch)
- Prepackaged small snacks can be sold. Free pretzels on the bar, no more.
- No menus allowed on premises for local business.
In addition to existing brewery rules such as:
- Customers are required to have a brewery tour at every single visit.
- We can only sell the beer that we brew on premises.
- We can not serve food.
What’s the problem with less Live Events?
This is going to affect our community. The problem is that these 25 events are considerably less than we usually host. Everything except simply selling you a beer constitutes an event in the states eyes. If we have the tv playing in the background? That takes away from our 25 events. (We can only show old broadcasts, but no sports) If we promote and participate in Main Street events such as Dickens, Halloween Parade, Food Trucks…that takes from our 25 events. When we host community events like we often do: a pet adoption event, fundraisers for your church groups, your school groups, medical expenses fundraisers, Veteran return parties, Autism awareness events, even Girl Scouts setting up to sell their cookies. These are a small snapshot of the events we hold. We don’t always host these events because it’s a lucrative choice. We host them because we support our community that supports us. People come to us and ask us for our space for a compelling reason, and we partner with them and help if we can.
Not only the charitable events, but our fun events we do like live music, trivia, open mic nights, artist trunk shows… these will be curtailed in a giant way. To give a specific example, the Art Walk, which happens on the 2nd Friday of every month is a Main Street wide event coordinated by the Medford Arts Center. They put local artists work in 13+ businesses on Main Street. Up and down the street you will meet the artist, see their work, hear live music, etc. We host an artist and also host Open Mic night that night to increase exposure, and outreach. This is a great event for Main Street and is only getting better! Here’s the catch, that artists work is usually displayed in the brewery for a month or two. That will no longer be possible, since every day that artists work hangs on our walls is now considered an”Live Event” and we would run out our yearly quota in a month. These rules are honestly that ridiculous. I wish I were exaggerating. The Art Walk and the art on the walls has been a great ice breaker for us to talk to our customers about the Medford Arts Center, the Main Street events, etc. We are going to need to look at our events and see which are the top 25 profitable events and host those ones, while canceling the rest. I think you can imagine that the events that will be cut here are the ones that are not fruitful in wealth despite being fruitful for the community.
What’s wrong with 52 private events? That’s one a week!
One private event a week is not horrible, business wise, personally for us. It’s not enough for some of our fellow breweries who have invested in separate spaces for parties, etc. However, keep in mind that the community here is also going to suffer. We are open Thursday night through Sunday. Often times during Monday-Thursday afternoon while we are closed to the public we host “Private events” these vary from business events, community fundraisers, school fundraisers, local orchestra meet & greets, downtown business meetings, organization meetings, a knitting & crocheting group of ladies that meet monthly, political parties, birthdays, anniversaries, book clubs, etc! Per the new ruling we can have one event per week, and anything that happens outside our regular business hours is a private event. This means again, saying no to our community. Will we choose to host an anniversary party that pays a rental fee, and has 40 guests? Or will we host a business meeting with 8-12 in attendance, that we donate our space to and sell considerably less beer? The state is forcing us to pick and choose and obviously we need to choose what is best for our business. This new ruling is an attack on Main Street, Small Business, and Communities like ours.
Everyone has smart phones anyway, who cares about menus?
We care. Yes, you can find your local eateries menu on your phone. But this is just about the principal of it. We have menus from every single take out restaurant in Medford. We see some of these delivery guys multiple times a night. This seems like a heavy handed strike against community partnership and small business. Breweries are a Destination. We get many customers from all over the state. These people know they’re allowed to bring food with them, but they don’t know the local restaurants. Who exactly are we hurting by having other businesses take out menus available? It’s not like we get a cut of the order!
What’s the difference between your liquor license, and a bar license?
We have a limited brewery license. This means we are limited to serving only the beer we brew ourselves, on premises. It also means we are subject to the rules I outlined above. The beer we brew is a huge taxable for NJ, we are taxed on it roughly three times before it even its your glass. That’s ok! We knew that going in. We signed up for this! We have the ability to sell it to you directly, or sell it wholesale to bars, and liquor stores. Our license limits the amount of beer we can brew a year, but for comparison there – Flying Fish has the same limit because they have the same license and even they don’t pass it, as the biggest craft brewery in the state. Our license costs a few thousand dollars a year. It can not be sold. It holds no value, it is not a commodity. Think of it as a drivers license. You can sell your car but the buyer needs their own license. Today, there are 88 total limited breweries in NJ.
A bar can serve anyone’s beer, anyone’s wine, a cocktail, straight hard liquor, and of course food. Nowhere in their license does if give them exclusive rights to events such as music, trivia, fundraisers, etc. These bar liquor licenses cost about equivalent of a medium family home in their towns, which is a LOT more than our license costs. Bar license per town are limited to a population and is decided by the municipality. We keep hearing things like “It sounds like you want to be a bar, if you want to be a bar, buy a retail liquor license!”
Here’s the big difference. Yes, they paid more for it. A bar license can be sold on the private market much like a house can. If someone pays say, $300,000 for that license, they are buying a commodity. It can be resold at anytime the bar owner decides. The only thing they can’t do is sell it to a different town. Licenses stay within the town they are issued. Often times if you do the research, a liquor license increases in value or at the very least holds its value. Much like buying a home. As long as the neighborhood doesn’t go down the toilet, these things tend to hold value. Comparing our businesses is like comparing apples and oranges.
I am not sure it’s true or fair to say that we small breweries are stealing business from a bar. Maybe some bar owners feel that way. Personally, we feel having a bar up the street from us is an asset to downtown and us personally and we would hope that our neighbors feel the same way. We close at 10pm and are open 4 days a week. When we close we tell people Braddocks is still open! We do not serve food, or anything other than beer. We get many customers from our neighbor restaurants having a drink before and after dinner. Breweries are new, breweries are economically stimulating and we are only looking for fairness with these rules.
The bottom line is that this special ruling is arbitrary and capricious. It is an attack on small business. It was put into effect without any votes, or legislative action. The craft beer business across the nation is booming and growing, yet in NJ they are regulating us into extinction. This is a ruling to stop growth. Imagine the state deciding to limit Uber drivers in order to protect the Yellow Taxis! It would be insane, and unethical.
We will be fine, we are creative and hard workers. If nothing changes? We will figure it out! Of course we hope things change! I’m not sure I can say the same for other breweries. We will lose some because of this. We aren’t the kind to sit back and watch the world burn. (Literally or figuratively, our head brewer is a firefighter!) So we are rallying our supporters to sign the petition. So far we have 25,000 signatures opposing this ruling! Please add your signature, and call the governor! Share this info, and of course, support our brewery!
— Abbie Galie