A Camden County brewery is scheduled to close next week after more than eight years of operation. New Jersey’s restrictions on how craft breweries can operate are cited as the main reason for the closure.
Lunacy Brewing Co.a 3,000-square-foot brewery and tasting room at 1500 W. Kings Highway in Haddon Heights, announced by Facebook Earlier this week, it announced it was planning to close largely due to government restrictions on craft breweries and pandemic difficulties that have been difficult to recover from. The last day of operation is Saturday September 16th.
“It wasn’t an easy decision, but we believe it’s the best thing for us,” said the brewery owners wrote on Facebook. “We hugged you the way you hugged us. We’ve been invited to parties, invited to weddings and ‘destroyed’ another one. We attended the funeral of a fellow brewer. We have met some of the best people in the last few years that we are lucky enough to be able to call friends now.”
Lunacy Brewing Co. opened in January 2014 in a warehouse at 214 Davis Road in Magnolia. In the Facebook post, the owners recalled the fine Italian leather sofas and marble floors they didn’t expect to find at the back of the “old, dingy” building, which was surrounded by barbed wire.
After about four years, the team moved operations to their current location in Haddon Heights to expand production with new equipment and a colorful tasting room designed to maintain the same atmosphere as the original location. Over the years, Lunacy has hosted numerous special events including birthday parties, anniversaries, baby showers, wedding receptions, a divorce party, an album release party, open mics, comedy shows and celebrations featuring appearances by Santa, Darth Vader and Princess Leia.
Still, the brewery ran into financial difficulties, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which prevented the company from increasing production as much as the owners had hoped. These obstacles, along with increasing financial difficulties and government restrictions that prohibit breweries from selling food and limit the number of special events that can be held on-site each year, ultimately led to the decision to close the brewery.
“If I’m going to do anything else, it won’t be in the state of New Jersey,” Michael Lees, a native of Southern Philippines and one of the co-founders of Lunacy Brewing Co., told the Philadelphia Business Journal. “I just feel like they don’t promote or support small businesses as much as they should.”
The special rule governing how craft breweries can operate was proposed in 2019 and went into effect last July, much to the chagrin of brewery owners across South Jersey. The death of Fox Brewing Co. in Gloucester County was among the catalysts for efforts to appeal the restrictions.
Six weeks after the restrictions went into effect, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation to lift some of the restrictions, including easing limits on the number of special events a brewery can host each year and lifting a ban on working with outside food vendors .
The bill approved unanimously Passed in the state Assembly and Senate earlier this year and sent to Gov. Phil Murphy for his signature. On Friday, Murphy indicated he would “conditionally veto” the measure in an effort to get lawmakers to add his plan to loosen state restrictions on liquor licenses to the docket. Nevertheless, a spokesman for Murphy told the New Jersey Monitor that the governor supports “clear easing of restrictions” on breweries.