Author Topic: Creative Reinterpreting of NJ Brewery Laws or My Own Personal Kobayashi Maru  (Read 732 times)

Offline tonyp

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 656
  • If it ain't broke you aren't trying hard enough...
    • View Profile
First, a link to the current NJ Licensing Laws


Relevant parts:

The holder of this license shall be entitled to sell this product at retail to consumers on the licensed premises of the brewery for consumption on the premises, but only in connection with a tour of the brewery, or for consumption off the premises in a quantity of not more than 15.5 fluid gallons per person, and to offer samples for sampling purposes only pursuant to an annual permit issued by the director.

and

For the purposes of this subsection, "sampling" means the selling at a nominal charge or the gratuitous offering of an open container not exceeding four ounces of any malt alcoholic beverage. For the purposes of this subsection, "product" means any malt alcoholic beverage that is produced on the premises licensed under this subsection.

In a nutshell, here in the lovely state of Nazi Jersey New Jersey, you cannot have a Tap Room at your brewery where customers can walk in, sit down at the bar and order a beer unless they take a tour first. As everyone who has thought of the idea of opening a brewery has figured out, retail pint sales are where the real money is made.

So for the last few months I've been trying to find out the exact technical meaning of the word "Tour". No one at the local or state level can tell me what a "Tour" is. So if that's the case, I am now taking it upon myself to define it as such:

Brewery Tour: Show them how the brewery works.

So in my current dream-state, this means any info about how the brewery works is part of the tour. Here is where my crazy, loophole-ridden psyche takes over.

What if you put a LCD TV on a stand where your customers walk in that plays a video loop of the brewing process? Is that a tour? Why yes, yes it is.

What if you were walked to the Tap Room by a guide that explains the process by pointing to pictures of the brewing process that are hanging on the wall that leads to the Tap Room? Is that a tour? Why yes, yes it is.

I've come up with about 20 of these loopholes and since there is no concrete definition of what a tour is or what it has to entail, we're free to interpret it as we see fit until they come and take me to jail, right?

Denny, you have the Conn, Kirk out. <<--see what i did there!?

:)

Tonyp
Live from the Jersey Shore!

Phrases for Creatives, #22:
"I'll try being nicer if you'll try being smarter."

Offline BrodyR

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 505
  • Philadelphia, PA
    • View Profile
That's exactly what the Village Idiot in Mt Holly does - they have a powerpoint up on a TV, that's the "tour". Flying Fish offers a more robust tour but also has the TV option.

Offline tonyp

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 656
  • If it ain't broke you aren't trying hard enough...
    • View Profile
That's exactly what the Village Idiot in Mt Holly does - they have a powerpoint up on a TV, that's the "tour". Flying Fish offers a more robust tour but also has the TV option.

Awesome!
Live from the Jersey Shore!

Phrases for Creatives, #22:
"I'll try being nicer if you'll try being smarter."

Offline alestateyall

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1781
  • Tommy M.
    • View Profile
Once you define your "tour" you could have your lawyer (or yourself) run the tour description by the proper authorities and get them to sign off before opening the tap room. That would be safer than just defining your tour and hoping the authorities agree when they visit. 

Offline reverseapachemaster

  • Official Poobah of No Life.
  • *
  • Posts: 3063
    • View Profile
    • Brain Sparging on Brewing
I've come up with about 20 of these loopholes and since there is no concrete definition of what a tour is or what it has to entail, we're free to interpret it as we see fit until they come and take me to jail, right?

Not the way the law works but I guess that is one way to conduct business.   :o

We have a similar statutory system here in Texas where a brewery can only have a taproom with bar sales if the brewery has a particular type of license that places a ceiling on production. The normal brewer's permit limits breweries to either a limited number of free samples or they can sell a tour which includes a free glass and three or four beers. Most breweries offer "tours" a couple times a week in a 2-4 hour block in which one or two tours are offered but obviously a patron cannot be forced to walk the tour.

Whether your state regulators will permit the screen-based tour is a question for your regulators. I couldn't tell you whether you are better off taking that path and begging for forgiveness if caught or asking for permission ahead of time but you (or your attorney) should first take a closer look at the administrative rules not only for a particular definition but how the regulators are likely to interpret the meaning of a tour under the statute.

Something else to consider is that the tour is an opportunity to round people up and give them a sales pitch on more than just the taste of your beer. Will a video maximize that opportunity? Can you afford the staff time to give a tour? I am sure everybody will get extremely tired of giving the "Beer is made of four ingredients..." speech in short time but people enjoy seeing the equipment and if you can make a few merchandise sales out of the tour then maybe it's worth it.

Heck yeah I blog about homebrewing: Brain Sparging on Brewing

Offline tonyp

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 656
  • If it ain't broke you aren't trying hard enough...
    • View Profile
I've come up with about 20 of these loopholes and since there is no concrete definition of what a tour is or what it has to entail, we're free to interpret it as we see fit until they come and take me to jail, right?

Not the way the law works but I guess that is one way to conduct business.   :o

That was sarcasm btw! :)

Whether your state regulators will permit the screen-based tour is a question for your regulators. I couldn't tell you whether you are better off taking that path and begging for forgiveness if caught or asking for permission ahead of time but you (or your attorney) should first take a closer look at the administrative rules not only for a particular definition but how the regulators are likely to interpret the meaning of a tour under the statute.

In all seriousness, I would never do any of this without consulting a lawyer first, and your opinion is acknowledged, appreciated, and noted, so thank you!

I've personally talked to at least 10 different people and not a single one could define what a tour is, both at the local and state level. My total phone on-hold time is probably around 3 hours so far. :/

Something else to consider is that the tour is an opportunity to round people up and give them a sales pitch on more than just the taste of your beer. Will a video maximize that opportunity? Can you afford the staff time to give a tour? I am sure everybody will get extremely tired of giving the "Beer is made of four ingredients..." speech in short time but people enjoy seeing the equipment and if you can make a few merchandise sales out of the tour then maybe it's worth it.

I absolutely agree. The plan also includes scheduled guided tours for exactly the reasons you stated, but also includes the loophole tours for people that just want to walk in and order a pint then walk out with a growler.

Our current plan is to take over a retail space in a highly trafficked area that was occupied by a food service business to minimize the buildout costs. The floorplan is narrow and long, think strip mall location, and would be perfect for retail sales as opposed to a huge cheap warehouse out in the boondocks for a production brewery.

Live from the Jersey Shore!

Phrases for Creatives, #22:
"I'll try being nicer if you'll try being smarter."