An Assembly panel on Monday approved a five-bill package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Eric Houghtaling, Bob Andrzejczak, Adam Taliaferro, Arthur Barclay and Reed Gusciora designed to spur the continued growth of New Jersey’s winery industry.
“As New Jersey’s wine industry continues to grow, we need to be open and responsive to the needs of our wineries so that our regulations don’t impede their ability to remain competitive,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). “That’s exactly what these bills do and the cumulative effect will hopefully enable them to flourish.”
“The wine industry has begun to yield tremendous benefits for our state, particularly South Jersey,” said Andrzejczak (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland). “But in order to help us become truly competitive with more established states, we need to work with our wineries to make our laws more effective for them.”
“This bill package alters a number of existing laws and regulations in order to eliminate burdensome or unnecessary requirements that might hinder the growth of New Jersey’s wine industry,” said Taliaferro (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “It’s a pro-business, pro-economy legislative solution.”
New Jersey ranks 10th in the nation in wine production with more than 1.6 million gallons produced in 2012. In 2013, the last year for which data is available, wineries supported thousands of jobs, generated close to $40 million in revenues for the state, and consistently draw 100,000 tourists to New Jersey every year.
Cumulatively, the five-bill package is designed to spur continued growth by amending existing laws and regulations pertaining to New Jersey’s wineries to:
- A-4948 (sponsored by Houghtaling, Andrzejczak and Taliaferro): Clarify that the responsibility for ensuring any buyer of alcohol is at least 21 years of age or older rests on the retail outlet and its employees, and not the winery;
- A-4949 (sponsored by Houghtaling, Taliaferro and Andrzejczak): Authorize a temporary waiver to the requirement that farm wineries use at least 51 percent of grapes or fruit grown in New Jersey during the first five years of the winery’s inception while operations are getting off the ground;
- A-4950 (sponsored by Andrzejczak, Taliaferro and Houghtaling): Make the law governing winery salesrooms less cumbersome by requiring applications for winery salesrooms to be processed within 90 days, permitting wineries to vary certain fees associated with the salesrooms, and allowing wineries to provide samples of wine and sell wine in any area of a salesroom;
- A-4951 (sponsored by Taliaferro, Houghtaling and Andrzejczak): Ease the current monthly requirement that alcohol licensees file a current price list with the ABC and instead require a price list to be filed prior to the initial sale of alcohol and subsequently only when the price of the alcoholic beverages changes; and
- A-4952: (sponsored by Barclay and Gusciora): Eliminate the requirement that wineries must operate on at least three acres of land on or adjacent to the winery.
“By giving interested investors the freedom to pursue wine growing without land constraints, we could perhaps inspire the next great New Jersey wine, leading to eventual growth and expansion,” said Barclay (D-Camden/Gloucester).
“The best way to spur innovation in our winery industry is to grant wine growers the flexibility to explore grape cultivation without being bound by minimum land requirements,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon).
The bills were approved by the Assembly Regulatory Oversight Committee, chaired by Gusciora.