After a Century, Dry NJ Town Falls Off the Wagon
'We're damp," mayor says
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted May 26, 2016 7:34 AM CDT
This had never happened in Pitman, NJ.   (AP Photo/The Herald-Times, Jeremy Hogan)

(Newser) – After more than a century on the wagon, Pitman, NJ, has broken its sobriety. Thanks to a change in state law, Kelly Green Brewing Co. was able bypass local alcohol restrictions and start serving suds earlier this month right on the city's main drag, Atlas Obscura reports. "This town is thirsty," says brewery co-owner Justin Fleming. The teetotaling Methodists who founded the town of 9,000 in 1905 (Pitman's roots stretch to the 1790s, when it was the location of various church revivals), strictly forbade the production and sale of "spirituous malts, intoxicating liquors of any grade or preparation." That, of course, means no liquor licenses (although residents could buy booze for home consumption or get tanked at establishments outside city limits). In 2012, however, lawmakers began allowing microbreweries, which are licensed by the state, to sell beer by the glass, essentially cutting the city out of the equation.

City-issued liquor licenses are still banned, NJ.com notes. But late last year, per Atlas Obscura, the City Council approved the drafting of an ordinance to issue them. And an ordinance passed in 2013 allows restaurant patrons to BYOB. Wineries are taking advantage of another recent rule change allowing them to lease space in restaurants and sell wine, according to Philly.com. A second brewery is slated to to open this summer. "Technically, we're not dry," Mayor Russell Johnson tells Philly.com, "We're damp." Johnson and other city leaders hope the breweries will be an economic boon for Pitman, which, per Atlas Obscura, "has seen better days commercially." There are restrictions on how the breweries can operate. For instance, beer sales must be part of a brewery tour, so Kelly Green plays a looped video of its crew making beer and allows patrons to see the tap room through windows. (This brewery is transporting beer via underground pipeline.)