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New Jersey brewery sues state over ‘deliberate attack’ on independent businesses

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A New Jersey brewery is suing the state's Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) over license rules it considers "a deliberate attack on small brewers.”

The Cherry Hill Courier-Post reports that the Death of the Fox Brewing Company filed the lawsuit in September, claiming that the state's Limited Brewery Special Conditions "severely restrict limited breweries’ ability to advertise events and grow their businesses."

Under the regulations, New Jersey breweries face a number of unique conditions. According to the Courier-Post, those conditions include severe limitations on the type of food breweries can sell, significant limitations on events, and required tours for patrons.

"ABC’s special ruling is a deliberate attack on small brewers in New Jersey. They are a transparent attempt to play favorites by helping some businesses at the expense of others," Death of the Fox founder Chuck Garrity said. "What’s worse is ABC didn’t even bother to follow the law in proposing these rules by submitting them for public notice and comment. Hundreds of small businesses around the state are already being hobbled by these draconian rules. Death of the Fox Brewing Company is suing to protect all New Jersey brewers’ right to free speech and to build thriving businesses."

State officials believe the regulations are necessary for maintaining balance among New Jersey’s businesses. When the special ruling was issued in May 2019, New Jersey ABC Director James Graziano said, "We believe the activities permitted under this Special Ruling strike a fair and appropriate balance between the interests of full retail license holders, such as restaurants and bars, and the craft brewing industry."

The brewery is being represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), a nonprofit legal organization that represents private citizens against the government. “State agencies cannot just craft rules behind closed doors without transparency or any opportunity for public involvement,” PLF attorney Luke Wake said. “State law requires that when an agency wants to impose rules affecting our lives and our livelihood, we must at least have an opportunity to voice our concerns. And agencies are required to submit regulations to the legislature — which can decide whether to override this sort of agency action.”

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