Parties to an eight-year legal battle will now wait until March to resolve their dispute. The plaintiffs, two couples from North Jersey and two out-of-state wineries, agreed with the defendant, the state, and intervenor liquor wholesale companies that they would rather have the legislature solve the problem than the judiciary. If lawmakers cannot agree on a new law permitting out-of-state wineries to open their own retail outlets in New Jersey, the court may take up the case in March 2012.

U.S. District Court Judge Katharine Hayden agreed to stay the case that rendered New Jersey’s wine laws unconstitutional in December, keeping more than a dozen new wineries from opening and existing wineries from expanding. After the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that the state’s laws unfairly restrict interstate commerce for wine sales, the state Division of Alcohol and Beverage Control moved to temporarily extend existing winery licenses for another year, but is withholding licenses for new businesses and retail outlets.

Two competing bills, one in the state assembly, one in the senate, would each would level the playing field for in-state and out-of-state wineries by permitting both to open retail outlets here. Where they disagree is whether or not to allow direct shipments to consumers. Even wineries disagree about the shipping issue; the appeals court said the state’s shipping laws are constitutional because they equally restrict in-state and out-of-state wineries from doing so.

The competing bills appear to have stalled in their respective houses in June; more information should be available on the New Jersey Legislature’s website as the bills progress.


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