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ABC Relaxation of COLA Requirement for Intrastate Sales

COLA in New Jersey

Relax.  You may not always need a COLA to register your brand in New Jersey.

In a prior post, we talked about the need to obtain a COLA for New Jersey brand registration per New Jersey regulations, even if the brand is sold intrastate only, or just in your taproom (and therefore would not require a COLA under federal law).  With the recent federal government shutdown, discussed here, the need for a COLA in order to register a brand in New Jersey has become problematic for many brewers.  Recognizing the damage the federal shutdown has caused, the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control is now considering applications by craft brewers to relax the requirement that they obtain a COLA to register in New Jersey.

If you can demonstrate, inter alia, that the product is sold in intrastate commerce only, you are the exclusive manufacturer of the brand, the lack of a COLA will not burden any affected parties, a meaningful economic loss or hardship, and you are not otherwise in violation of New Jersey’s Alcoholic Beverage Law and federal labelling laws, the ABC may grant you a waiver of the requirement to obtain a COLA.  The ABC has advised that it intends to process these applications as quickly as possible.

For many brewers, asking the ABC to relax the COLA requirement is the way to go at this time.  Your brewery likely has commitments to sell to retailers, you don’t want your inventory to lose flavor or even spoil, or you may have just spent money promoting a new brand that you have not yet been able to release.  With the TTB working on a backlog, its current 49 day average processing time simply won’t be fast enough for you to obtain the COLA.

But in the normal course, it may be quicker and easier to simply obtain the COLA.  It is unclear if the ABC will be as lenient 3-6 months from now when we expect the TTB to be back on track.  Assuming the TTB will be able to process COLAs at its usual pace, approximately 14 days, it may ultimately be quicker and more cost effective to get the COLA, rather than filing an application for a waiver with the ABC.

For information regarding federal and New Jersey liquor law matters, please contact me at adlinden@norris-law.com or at our offices at 908-722-0700.  For information regarding federal and Pennsylvania liquor law matters, please contact Theodore J. Zeller III, Esquire, at tzeller@norris-law.com or at our offices at 610-391-1800.