WESTFIELD, NJ – More beer here.
Such was the message from the Town Council on Tuesday as it approved regulations intended to draw microbreweries and craft distilleries into its downtown.
The new local law allows for microbreweries and craft distilleries within Westfield’s central business district and delineates definitions for the establishments. Council members approved the measure within several days of the state’s enacting more stringent regulations for beer crafters.
“This allows the potential for micro-brewers to be even more so in our town,” said Town Administrator Jim Gildea. “We’ve had the potential for them to be in certain zones and on the outskirts of our downtown.”
To qualify as a microbrewery or craft distillery, the establishment must provide a sampling room and retail sales area where it offers samples, under the new regulations. The sampling room and retail area must occupy at least half of the street frontage of the space, under the law.
While no application for a microbrewery is in the hopper yet for Westfield, 4th Ward Councilwoman Dawn Mackey said companies have inquired about the legality of establishing a microbrewery in the downtown.
“People were calling to say if it was legal,” Mackey said. “So now we can say ‘yes.’”
Mackey declined to disclose what specific companies have inquired as to the legality of setting up shop in the downtown. But she is optimistic about the prospect.
“That will be a very energizing thing for our town,” Mackey said. “As the Ward 4 council member, I very much would love it to be on the south side.”
Westfield’s move to draw distilleries into the downtown follows a ruling from the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control Friday, which enacted a series of more stringent regulations for distilleries operating under New Jersey’s existing permits for such.
The series of regulations, which are to be enacted on a temporary basis and reevaluated, required the state be noticed of upcoming events, including quiz nights, paint and sip and live music, and that the brewers limit such happenings to 25 per year.
The regulations, delineated in the 16-page decision also prohibit brewers from distributing food (except for small snacks), coordinating with a food vendor, or leaving restaurant menus at the establishment.
Town Administrator Jim Gildea noted that in New Jersey distilleries do not require a liquor license to operate.
“It’s not a normal restaurant. It’s not a normal business,” Gildea said. “You’re basically making beer and doing tastings.”
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