Craft brewery owners hope liquor license overhaul is ready in time for summer season

Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposed overhaul is currently stalled in the state Legislature.

Matt Trapani

Apr 26, 2023, 11:16 PM

Updated 452 days ago


The owners of some craft beer breweries in New Jersey are hoping Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposed liquor license overhaul will be ready in time for the busy summer season.
The legislation would modify a slew of restrictions on their businesses, but it is currently stalled in the state Legislature. Some owners say that they are frustrated and are losing hope.
“It feels like they really do not want us to succeed and that’s a tough pill to swallow,” says Mike Jones, founder of Hackensack Brewing Company.
There were 18 additional restrictions put in place on craft breweries last year. The owners say that it is impacting their recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It becomes so cumbersome with the amount of red tape you have to go through for everything,” says Jones.
Jones says he put his retirement savings into opening Hackensack Brewing Company four years ago.
“For the state to add layer after layer of bureaucratic hurdles, that they can’t explain to us, it makes this such a difficult state to do business in,” he says.
Among those restrictions: No food served inside or outside, no food trucks on site or nearby and a limited number of social events.
“It’s not an event if I have an acoustic guitar player. As soon as he plugs his guitar into an amplifier, it’s an event,” Jones says.
The governor proposed a complete overhaul of the state’s liquor license laws during his State of the State address in January. That plan is currently stalled in the Legislature. The brewers say they see time slipping away as they move into their potentially profitable summer season without the new rules.
“I’m already seeing this summer slipping away and it’s not even May,” says Jones.
Scott Wells, owner of Bolero Snort Brewery in Carlstadt, is a board member of the Brewers Guild of New Jersey.
“We get the impression from the governor’s team that they’re paying attention to everyone and trying to strike a fair balance for everyone,” he says.
“People are starting to realize that these restrictions are being placed on them as consumers,” says Jones. “Just take the foot off our necks, man.”
Bergen County Democratic state Sen. Gordon Johnson is taking the lead on rewriting the liquor licenses bill. Jones says Johnson has visited Hackensack Brewing Company to better understand the brewers’ point of view.

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