It's about the beer
Gina Miller and Bill Keeper
I recall visiting the Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing in Cherry Hill, N.J., shortly after it opened in
2014. Now three years later, at least two of the bars closest to the brewery, several
neighboring restaurants and a regional restaurant chain with a location less than a mile away
refuse to sell Forgotten Boardwalk beer even though it’s popular around the state. My
question to you Bill is why?
I can tell you what I've heard from a lot of other restaurants and brewpubs in New Jersey
during the course of my beer hunting adventures in our neighboring state They, almost to a
person, say that these new, small breweries are getting the benefit of a state liquor license
without paying for one. The indisputable fact is that a brewery license in that state can be
purchased for as little as $1,500. A full bar license is going to set a buyer back hundreds of
thousands of dollars.
In a way it's understandable that when small startup breweries open a tasting room, as is their
legal right, some see it as in direct competition with restaurants and pubs. They draw
hundreds of customers every day of the week that hitherto had spent their dollars for beer at
traditional places. However in some ways that might be shortsighted.
The 2013 law that opened the way for all this has assuredly transformed New Jersey's brewing
landscape as it led to the tripling of the number of its producers despite the requirements that
patrons to tasting rooms take a tour every time they come to sample beer and that it can’t
operate a restaurant. Now I know that some places routinely ignore parts of those
requirements without repercussion but that doesn't alter my basic position despite the ever
hardening blow back from traditional license holders. By the way, this same story is being
played out in several states like Maryland, Texas and Nebraska just to name three.
Here's my point Bill and it's a simple one so you should be able to follow it (just teasing) - I view
the ability to sell directly to beer lovers like us as a right. And in this case it's one clearly
supported by the law. And if those boycotting establishments are really being hurt by new
breweries then they should compete. Get better and more varied beer offerings. Have better
service and amenities.
That's it from me, chug-a-lug, Bill.....see you next time.
Hello Gina -
I did a bit of research on this when I got your latest polemic and discovered that New Jersey
craft brewers produce less than 2 percent of the beer sold in the state so it's hard for me to see
that these tasting rooms as you call them (they sell pints, how is that tasting?) are affecting
profits and taking money out of restaurant pockets.in the big picture. If anything is at fault in
this tale it seems to the State and it's regulations which have made an unnatural and unfair
market. The high cost and limited numbers of liquor licensees seems culprit. Whenever a
coveted commodity is directly tied to the amount of people in a town and a town's arbitrary idea
of how many licenses it needs trouble is sure to follow whether it's in NJ or any other state. The
system here in New York in which restaurants pay a reasonable monthly fee to the state to
serve alcohol seems better.
As I see it a bar/restaurant’s liquor license allows owners to sell beer, wine, spirits and food
while a limited brewery license allows brewers to sell one product – their own. That really isn’t
competition as I see it.
Washington, Colorado and California have passed far more liberal laws that govern tasting
rooms and it's safe to say that now that every state in the nation has created some space for
craft breweries by belatedly modernizing its Prohibition-era liquor laws.
One aspect of this you haven't mentioned Gina is that tasting rooms are the quintessential
location for brand building. Last year the Brewers Association said that craft breweries
generated almost 10% of their revenue in their tasting rooms and that breweries with those
rooms grew faster in distribution than breweries that don’t. Anything that helps small, local
breweries grow and prosper can't be bad for we beer drinkers.
Frankly, I think tasting rooms are bringing excitement back to beer in on premise and continuing
to elevate beer and beer culture. That provides opportunities for retailers to sell higher value
added products in their own establishments so it's a win-win proposition.
Interestingly some brewers’ say that tasting rooms act symbiotically with bars, restaurants and
liquor stores. They claim that the accounts that sell the most of their beer are those located
the closest to their tasting room, suggesting that retailers can also benefit from the great brand
building going on. Some newly released data supports just that premise. It shows that bars
with nearby breweries with tasting rooms are actually increasing their margins per pour of local
beer – not the opposite. That’s likely why, out of thousands of retailers, only a handful are truly
So once again I declare that you are on the correct side of the issue. Don't worry, when (not if)
you stray I'll be here to set you right. Ha.
Here's looking at you Gina