No government, no new beer

I couldn’t help but notice that the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which regulates breweries new and old in this country, is one of many government agencies facing furloughs. According to the U.S. Treasury Department’s website, only 35 of 483 employees will continue to work, until Congress does its work. Those 35 employees are those “necessary to perform activities necessarily implied by law” and those “necessary for protection of life and property.” Notably, those 35 employees are not ones who participate in “processing of permits, [and] certificates of label approval.” Thus, the upshot of the government shutdown for the beer industry is that the government won’t be issuing any new permits for new breweries. It also means that there will be no new certificates issued for new beers or new imports. Amendments to current licenses will also be restricted, so any brewery with expansion plans will be stalled for the time being. Thus, for now, beer lovers can buy only existing beers on the market, provided their labels haven’t changed … a serious limitation for experimental types. Interestingly, “processing of tax returns” and “maintaining minimum staff necessary to perform accounting functions” are considered “necessary for the safety of human life or protection of property.” Therefore, the agency will continue to collect money from the beer industry, without providing any of the services that allow breweries to begin, maintain, or grow their businesses. In the face of these obstacles imposed by the government shutdown, breweries seem to be maintaining their collaborative spirit, at least with furloughed (“nonessential”) government employees: Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, MD is offering free tours for furloughed government employees. I like to imagine that the
employees from the TTB may be eligible for further beer-oriented benefits.

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