Take Action To Help Montclair Brewery Get Mandates That Limit Events Rescinded

Local breweries in New Jersey, like our beloved Montclair Brewery, rely on events to attract customers. These events, in turn, make our community more vibrant, connected and fun.

New Jersey’s Alcohol Beverage Control board recently issued new mandates affecting all breweries that put restrictions and limits on their ability to hold events — including what type of events they can have, how often they can have events, even what they can show on television at the brewery!

“NJ alcohol laws need an overhaul and in the meantime placing unnecessary and overreaching restrictions on breweries is not the right answer,” says Denise Ford Sawadogo, Montclair Brewery’s general manager and co-owner. “We are hopeful that the governor will step in and do the right thing.”

The National Brewers Association & New Jersey Craft Beer have created a campaign to send the Governor, Attorney General, Senators and assembly people the message that these regulations hurt not only breweries, but communities, local businesses, tourism and consumers as well.

To help Montclair Brewery continue to offer great community events, text NJBEER to 52886 or visit these links https://p2a.co/rxLGUAd and https://tinyurl.com/fixNJlaws

Take action now and tell the governor’s office and attorney general you want New Jersey to support local breweries so we can all continue to enjoy special events!

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  1. I think the Montclair Brewery is great and an asset that we should support. I also think that COVID cases are high and I’m not optimistic for what will happen this Fall. However, I think they have made a mistake in taking their crusade public and while also enjoying special treatment from the Township.

    I support the relaxed enforcement by the Township for such establishments, e.g. using required parking for outdoor seating and events among many, because of COVID. Even in the absence of the State of Emergency. But, the Council and land use boards (the ZBA excluded, for now) have returned to the in-person requirement to participate in their indoor meetings.

    Pick a lane people! If the Montclair Brewery owners went to next week’s Council mtg and spoke out for remote public comment, I would be amenable to what they are asking for themselves. Or went in-person, as now required, before the Planning Board and asked for revisions to their approved application. Otherwise, I can’t support them in this.

    P.S. It would be just perfect if the Council passed a resolution supporting Montclair Brewery’s campaign citing a COVID justification while the Council insists its “patrons” must only be served indoors.

  2. I disagree with Frank and his government-centric, rules-based view.

    Outdoor dining, in his case drinking, are with us for the forseeable future. People are returning to offices, and as Frank mentions various public meetings are now being held in person. There’s a certain degree of normalcy but among the last places for normalcy will be restaurants. People are there voluntarily and often are packed tight. To the extent outdoor spaces are available the town government should continue to support outdoor dining. It’s a principles-based approach, the principle here being supporting local businesses during a pandemic.

    With the principles-based approach there can be many lanes.

    So the Brewery’s backyard, which ostensibly was supposed to be a parking lot but is now a picnic type setup, is fine.

    Onto the topic of the article, the township was more than happy to pocket $1 million when it recently sold a liquor license. I believe there are about 15 liquor licenses in town and if I had paid $1 million for the privilege of serving beer and other alcohol, then I would see this new development of microbreweries as a direct competitor, able to somehow compete without paying the same million dollars. The booze business has its lobbyists who will do what they will do.

    Both sides have a point and much boils down to the workarounds needed given our antiquated state-controlled liquor licensing process.

    I’m always going to recognize effort. It’s an effort to produce events, to try to bring people into your establishment. If an active roster of events makes a brewery more competitive versus a restaurant or bar with a liquor license, so be it.

    As a first effort the alcohol industry has had its lobbyists produce this proposal. I would reject the proposal and tell them to come back up with Plan B, which would be for those with liquor licenses to try harder, to hold events themselves, to improve their food or something that will bring more people into the door.

  3. I also agree with your rules-based view that the licensing laws are outdated & must start changing. And thank you for restating my point that COVID remains a local public health concern worthy of special measures, as demonstrated by the dining issue. And local business is off because of it… and now the national economy.

    I’d make the trade-off of less convenient parking to advance public health and make MONEY, MONEY, MONEY.
    (You forgot to mention my pattern of embracing change too readily and you should know I have been diagnosed as having bouts of paradigm shiftiness. It is quite debilitating without the apathetic meds (generic))

    I really want to hear your reason why remote public comment can’t be an option.
    I would also like to hear Blue Wave’s rational. I would love to hear the League of Women Voters rational. I would just like to hear an informed POV on the Why…if it exists in Montclair.

  4. Behind Egan’s are outdoor dining spaces put directly on a parking lot, seating for both restaurants actually. The fact that there are less parking spots for an establishment where you drink alcohol specifically does not bother me. The musicians and DJs are also negatively affected by a reduced number of events allowed.

  5. I could give you a list of establishments from the South End to the North End that have needed the community to extend a helping hand & consideration during COVID. I’m fine with them. I’m fine with Egan’s and how they use their parking lot. We gave them guidelines and flexibility. Because of COVID.

    The Council has declared, by their actions and/or silence, in a very Trumpian way, that COVID is over. So, what is the policy on what is enforced and what isn’t? I have been in this town too long to know it gets corrupted pretty fast. Do we leave it up to the 3 men on the Council’s Finance Committee, again? You want to go that route? As Dave would say, “Yikes!”

    Of course, Montclair Brewery appears to have taken advantage of the Development Review Committee’s approval or just a happy conincidence. They were allowed to pave over their front yard, but it was conditioned on protecting the Malus American Beauty tree. The tree? Bye-bye! See ya. Thank you very much. Our tree ordinance? MIA.

    And to be objective, this was never, ever an interesting storefront. Walnut Street business district had more than its fair share of warts. The business district owners made lemon out of lemonade for decades. Now the neighborhood is going back to making lemons.

    It is not a historic district so have at it. In fact, it is our only General Business & Light Industrial Zone. It’s a catch-all repository of orphaned, but very functional uses. It is just funny the neighborhood talks up the need to maintain the character (e.g. NO to Council’s Area In Need of Redevelopment designation) but they want freedom to eliminate character if it doesn’t pay for them personally.

  6. I see a black owned, dog friendly, original business meaning I can not think of another brewery in town and they had the unfortunate timing of opening pre pandemic. Parking lots are being constructed in two locations in walking distance of the brewery and I would be very sad if they failed to stay open. I found great joy in the fact their product was available for sale in some nearby liquor stores and I wish them the best. I just don’t know what your point is sometimes across all posts you seem to deviate from the subject to make an anti town government narrative. I’m not geeked about gov’t decision making and policies, but this is a statewide situation for all locally made brews. I do my best to try them all within my flavor range and I don’t understand the negativity. Enlighten me please why you don’t want them to succeed.

  7. Please. I see a Black, multi-gender owned unique business that is threatening to take their business to Pennsylvania, a red state, because they think they can make more money than here in the People’s Republic of Montclair. I get it. Money is the the determining consideration.

  8. I am confused as to which direction you are leaning concerning the state’s ruling. The state of NJ limited events at that business, they are not the only brewery in the state going public. You don’t like that they went public UNLESS they also petition the town for remote commenting during meetings? Perhaps the town should set up outdoor meetings in 90 degree heat to make you feel more amicable about someone else’s attempt to live the American dream and navigate the ever changing landscape of shut downs reopening and regulation in whatever way suits them.

  9. I think you really need to go back and watch the 3 hour hearing on the original application and then we can discuss. Otherwise, this format is not conducive to both extensive educating and debating. I can try to share the link if you want.

    What intrigues me beyond the State law is the redevelopment potential of these two lots. The building was approved by the Planning Board for a intensive, 50-seat restaurant use. However, the State brewery license applies to the building AND the 3,000 parking lot. I don’t know enough about the Federal license.

    The township is effectively letting the brewery operate at double the approved capacity. Egan’s is doing something similar, but they have different circumstances. The brewery lease is up next year and the owner could redevelop this site up to 3 floors from current 1…for commercial or mixed use…and still have a parking demand lower than what the PB approved. The brewery use is actually not optimizing the property.

    BTW, there are no longer any shut downs or COVID protocols. COVD is over as a health issue. This is strictly a land use issue. There is absolutely no pandemic argument here.

  10. Note my last sentence was sarcastic, but a minority view.

    PS: FYI, Montclair prohibits food trucks in our commercial zones because we don’t believe truck owners fit into our definition of American Dreams.

  11. And file under “maybe having one’s eyes wide open”, this Council has set a record for Redevelopment Areas – and also moved North from the Jackson Council’s Montclair Center focus to Walnut (3) and U. Mtc (1). This Council has targeted 7 parcels, in 3 distinct groups, all within 3 blocks of Montclair Brewery, as potential Areas In Need of Redevelopment. Further, the Soccer Domain has become a new, very serious sports bubble facility and former Trumpets will become “A Thing” place, when finished. The next Council will likely move North and work on Upper Montclair redevelopment. In the meantime, Mr Sionas is introducing a New England style take on origami roofing for the 192 Bellevue application.

    My only question to Mr Sionas’s client is could we get a better design if the HPC allowed you to tear the existing building down? The building is about as historic as a Montclair train station.

  12. It is clear you have a problem with the Town handling of the parcel and the leeway driven originally by the pandemic. I am curious if you had an opinion based on the new State ruling limiting all breweries across the state to “X” amount of events, certain type of events, censoring what can be shown on tv. If the brewery fails to resign a lease because of these new regulations or perhaps the new lease rate will be out of reach because the regulations will you be happy they closed down? Wouldn’t that put new worry about what will be possibly constructed in it’s place? Montclair bread had small beginnings on Walnut street, they succeeded and found new digs, started a runners club, pizza making classes among other endeavors and are a community asset. If the town tightens the screws on a growing business maybe they will be an asset to Pennsylvania when I would prefer them be an asset to Montclair, NJ.

  13. I’ll correct you: “the Town handling of the parcel and the leeway driven originally by the pre-pandemic”

    If the State’s onerous rules are retracted, or even better, eliminated , I will be extremely happy.

    I will hire myself out as an advisor to interested folks in the venture funds community, explain how they can create a licensing gold mine, a la Subway Sandwichs, of the craft brewery business. I will suggest they buy out a good, existing Vermont craft brewery. Then hire their brewmaster to design the beer recipes, provide the ingredients & and start-up support. Each licensee does the fun part & comes up with a local brand identity and locally inspired brew names. We’ll also provide educational materials, tour design tips, selling wholesale, and tips for convincing locals this will raise all boats in town. There are 565 municipalities in New Jersey. We could make a lot of money. We could help people fulfill a lot of American Dreams.

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