While other states, such as Pennsylvania (which has essentially reverted back to Prohibition) have significantly curtailed activities in the alcoholic beverage industry, New Jersey has amended a number of if its strict regulations in an effort to support alcohol beverage operations in our state. This past week, as the COVID-19 pandemic surges on, a number of governmental rulings were promulgated providing further guidance concerning the conduct of alcoholic beverage industry members in New Jersey as they manage the “new normal” of a COVID-19 marketplace.
At the bequest of industry members at both the wholesale and retail levels, on April 7, 2020, the Director of the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (“ABC”) issued a special ruling relaxing a number of regulations:
Pursuant to prior Executive Orders, retail consumption licensees were permitted to remain open during normal business hours, but could only sell food and alcoholic beverages in original sealed containers for pick-up or delivery. Liquor stores were deemed essential businesses and permitted to remain open. Retailers wishing to deliver products are required to do so in vehicles that have obtained a “transit insignia” from the ABC which are to be affixed to the vehicle.
As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, the ABC received a very high volume of applications for new transit insignias and licensees would not receive the insignias in a timely fashion. Accordingly, pursuant to a Special Ruling relaxing transit insignias, the ABC is permitting retailers, until they receive the transit insignia, to instead keep a copy of their receipt for the transit insignia in the vehicle to satisfy the applicable regulation. This special ruling reminds retailers that it is the duty of the delivery person to determine that the customer signing the delivery receipt is of the legal age to purchase and consume alcohol.
In an effort to help fight against COVID-19, we have seen distillers throughout the country, including some here in New Jersey, manufacture ethanol-based hand sanitizers. Although such activities are beyond the scope of the privileges afforded to craft distillery licenses in New Jersey, pursuant to another Special Ruling, the ABC is suspending enforcement against those making hand sanitizer so long as the federal Tax and Trade Bureau guidance permitting such conduct remains in effect. Those who do manufacture hand sanitizer must so notify the ABC.
On April 8, 2020, Governor Murphy issued Executive Order No. 122, adding new social mitigation requirements on essential businesses that are permitted to remain open. Recall that liquor stores were deemed “essential.” Pursuant to Executive Order No. 122, liquor stores can continue in-person operations, but will be subject to the following:
It is good to see that New Jersey is exercising a flexible, but health-conscious, approach to limit the impact of COVID-19 on the alcoholic beverage industry while maintaining customer and employee safety.
For information regarding national and state liquor law matters or general manufacturing and distribution advice, please contact our Liquor Law, Licensing, Manufacturing, and Distribution Practice Group: Liquor Law Department Chair Theodore J. Zeller III, Esquire (email@example.com); David C. Berger, Esquire (firstname.lastname@example.org) for Pennsylvania and New Jersey retail and manufacturing licensing; or contact our offices at 610-391-1800.
The information contained in this post may not reflect the most current developments, as the subject matter is extremely fluid and constantly changing. Please continue to monitor this site for ongoing developments. Readers are also cautioned against taking any action based on information contained herein without first seeking advice from professional legal counsel.