NJABC Issues New Grand Opening Permit, Limited Brewery Rules

The New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (NJABC) has recently issued two notices to the regulated community – the first notice impacting all consumption licensees hosting a Grand Opening event (known as a “soft opening”) and the second impacting the operation of a Limited Brewery. Due to the highly regulated nature of alcoholic beverages and the recent announcement of these rules, licensees should be diligent in their compliance.

The Grand Opening Permit authorizes an on-premise consumption licensee to sponsor a one-time private event on the licensed premises at its initial opening. With this permit, the NJABC recognizes that a new licensee may want to introduce itself to certain members of the community through a private event before its opening to the general public. The licensee must maintain a list of all individuals invited and when the invitation was accepted (no same-day invitations or “walk-up” invitees), and the list must be provided to the NJABC within ten days after the event. The licensee can offer an open bar at the event for no more than three hours (unless the permit authorizes differently), and the entire licensed premises must be closed to the public with clear and conspicuous signage that the premises is closed for a private event.

The new regulations for Limited Brewery Licensees (those breweries with tasting rooms and retail sales but no restaurant food service) are a reaction to the growth of the craft beer industry in New Jersey and attempt clarify what these facilities can and cannot do. Among the regulations provided for in the Special Notice:

  • A Limited Brewery must provide a tour of the facility prior to offering a sample, tasting, or retail sale for consumption on the premises. Retail sales for off-premises consumption do not require a tour.
  • All pourers/servers shall receive service training and shall be certified by an industry-recognized server training program.
  • While a Limited Brewery cannot serve food, it may gratuitously offer or provide for sale de minimus products such as water, pre-packaged crackers, chips, nuts, and similar snacks. Soda manufactured on the premises is the only soda that may be sold.
  • Patrons of the brewery may bring in their own food, but the Limited Brewery cannot provide menus or coordinate with outside food vendors.
  • Background music, radio, and television may be played on the premises, but the Limited Brewery cannot provide live music, DJs, television programs, movies, or sporting events, unless the licensee obtains a permit to host an “on-premises special event.”
  • A Limited Brewery may apply for a permit to host an “on premise special event,” but may be issued only up to 25 licenses in a license term. Additionally, a Limited Brewery may be issued up to 12 special permits for “off-premise special events” per license term.
  • Up to 52 private parties/functions may occur annually at the Limited Brewery. The tasting room/brewery can remain open during a private event, but the licensee must ensure the area where the event is held is separate from the tasting room. There can be no other alcoholic beverages sold or served at the event other than what the limited brewery has manufactured. The host of the party can bring food but must remove all extra food at the conclusion of the event.

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