TRENTON – A package of bills aimed at boosting New Jersey’s alcohol makers advanced in the Assembly Monday, including one that would eliminate the requirement for visitors to tour a brewery before buying beer to drink on-site.

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Five bills were endorsed by the Assembly Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committee. It was just the first step in the process for all except one, a bill earlier approved by the Senate letting someone acquire a third retail license as a bankruptcy asset if it’s being transferred to another retail food store.

The idea of eliminating the required brewery or distillery tour has been pending since 2017, though despite a few committee approvals has never gotten a vote in the full Senate or Assembly.

“Requiring them to take a tour every time that they frequent their favorite brewery is very redundant, and, you know, it’s a disincentive as well,” said Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt, D-Camden.

“We think this properly balances the tour requirement in the state of New Jersey by no longer requiring a tour to purchase a beer,” said Eric Orlando, executive director of the Brewers Guild of New Jersey. “It does not get rid of tours. Breweries are still going to give tours in the state of New Jersey. It just won’t be a requirement any longer to actually purchase beer for on-site consumption.”

Lampitt and Orlando said the change especially makes sense during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Prior to this, there probably would have been a good enough reason to move this legislation, based on the fact that it’s tough to give a tour where there’s heavy machinery, packaging equipment, operating in the same places where you potentially could be enjoying your favorite craft beer,” Orlando said. “Now with COVID in small, enclosed places, it’s even a better idea today.”

The other bills that advanced are:

  • A1293 Establishes advisory council for the brewery, cidery, meadery and distillery industries in New Jersey and provides for funding through certain alcoholic beverage tax receipts. It would probably yield around $400,000 a year for the council, which would pay for promotion and research.
  • A5231 Allows county or municipal governing body to enter into revenue sharing agreement for alcoholic beverage sales by concessionaire permit holder.
  • A5310 Removes limit on number of social affairs permits that can be issued for one premises under certain circumstances.

Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez, D-Middlesex, said bills A5231 and A5310 go hand-in-hand and are intended to help local economies and provide new sources of cash for municipal budgets.

“These are examples of the small tools we can provide to give municipal leaders the framework to develop innovative sources of revenue to support the programs and services residents count on,” Lopez said.

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“We all know that while we fight our way to the other side of this pandemic, the economic devastation created by COVID-19 will be felt for some time – a reality our local government know all too well,” she said.

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