Stop playing us as pawns.’ Craft beer brewers urge Gov. Murphy not to veto bill ending restrictions

The future of New Jersey’s craft breweries remains uncertain just months after a hard-won victory against restrictions.
Gov. Phil Murphy says he will veto the bill that ends those restrictions permanently in favor of comprehensive liquor license reform.
Restrictions are temporarily rescinded on everything from the size of TVs allowed in the breweries to showing playoff games and giving out beer on the house. But people like the owner of Hackensack Brewing Company say they thought those restrictions were about to be gone for good. They say they are disappointed the governor plans to veto the bill.
“It’s hard enough as it is alone. The fact that the state of New Jersey keeps switching lanes on us back and forth makes it next to impossible,” says Mike Jones, owner of Hackensack Brewing Company.
Jones says the restrictions are hurting his business. He says he and others were overjoyed when lawmakers in Trenton overwhelmingly passed a bill to end restrictions.
“A lot of people see that this bill passed, and they thought the breweries won,” says Jones. “A lot of people may not realize that we had the rug pulled out from under us days later.”
The governor’s office says Murphy intends to conditionally veto that bill, which was passed in June. Brewers say their industry is back in a very uncertain place.
“We’ve been waiting for three months on how they want to handle things as simple as food trucks parking at a brewery,” says Scott Wells, of the Brewers’ Guild of New Jersey.
The governor has said he wants a full overhaul of the state’s liquor license laws, which he wants to include craft brewers and distillers. However, it is unclear how long this overhaul will take.
“While license reform might actually make New Jersey a more hospitable environment for brewing down the road, the brewers that we have around today might not be around to see it,” says Wells.
Jones says he employs 21 people and that a lot of families will be impacted if he goes out of business.
“Stop playing us as pawns in this game,” Jones says.
Brewers statewide are making a “Sign the Bill Phil” IPA beer. It is already available at the Jersey Shore. Jones says he is going to brew a version at his brewery next week.