Craft distillery license bill released

TRENTON – The Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee released bill A3518, which creates a “Craft Distillery License” that would permit the licensee to manufacture up to 20,000 gallons of distilled alcoholic beverages, provided that at least 51 percent of the raw materials used in production are grown or purchased from providers in New Jersey.

 The fee for this license would be $938. One distillery paid more than $12,000 for such a license last year

Under the bill’s provisions, the license holder may sell the distillery’s products for consumption on the premises to consumers who have toured the distillery. In addition, a consumer who has toured the distillery would be permitted to buy up to five liters of the distillery’s products for consumption off the premises. The licensee also is permitted to offer consumers up to three samples per calendar day. The bill permits a craft distillery’s products to be sold in other states pursuant to the law of those states

The bill describes the recent resurgence of small distilleries as one of the ways to encourage economic growth, increase tax revenue, and provide assistance to the agriculture industry.

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-15) of Trenton said it’s time to allow distilleries such a convenience.

“We’re still dealing with the last vestiges of the Prohibition Era on alcohol laws,” he said.

It’s to allow businesses to create “farm-fresh” alcohol like 45 other states. Common foods used include strawberries, blueberries, and corn.  

“This will be a boon for the agriculture business,” he said. “It creates a new niche…much like we did for wineries, using New Jersey products.”

The bill would not allow direct shipment and no food would be served or sold.

But Assemblyman David Rible, (R-10), Wall was concerned the language was not clear and could open the door to allowing catering companies to set up shop.

“I just think we are going down a dangerous path,” he said.

He and Assemblyman Sean Kean, (R-30), Wall, voted no. Everyone else voted for its release.

While Gusciora didn’t necessarily agree with Rible’s fear, he was open to tightening up the language to make it clearer such things could not take place.

Krista Haley, principal of Jersey Artisan Distillery, supports the bill. She pointed out that while she could have gone to other states and set up the business for much cheaper, she decided to stick with the Garden State.

We’re from New Jersey,” she said. “We want to use products in New Jersey.”

She estimates she will be paying the state $100,000 this year in “production” taxes.

She requested one modification that would increase the quantity limitation from 20,000 gallons to 80,000 gallons, which would enable her to “remain hands on.”

“You can allow the industry to grow.”

Craft distillery license bill released