Sen. Bennet urges Treasury to address shutdown impacts on breweries

By Jensen Werley

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Colorado U.S. senator Michael Bennet has called on Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to address the effect the federal shutdown has had on craft brewers. “The uncertainty of a government shutdown is affecting these business owners’ ability to invest, hire, grow and hit revenue targets,” Bennet wrote in a letter to Secretary Mnuchin. “The inability of these companies to plan also affects farmers, suppliers, and everyone along the craft brewing supply chain, an industry that contributes $76.2 billion and more than 500,000 jobs to the U.S. economy.” The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, a branch of the Treasury Department, has been unable to review permits, new formulations or labels for brewers. More than 11,000 applications for labels have been backlogged since the start of the shutdown. Bennet cited several Colorado breweries being impacted by the shutdown: New Belgium Brewing and Oskar Blues are both delaying the launch of new products. Spice Trade Brewing in Arvada and Westminster Brewing Co. still have their permits pending. “If the shutdown worsens an already lengthy approval backlog, brewing companies could suffer delays and tens of thousands of dollars of lost revenue,” he wrote. Bennet concluded his letter saying he hoped Mnuchin could impress upon the Trump Administration the importance of working with Congress to end the shutdown and to outline how the Treasury Department plans to address the backlogs hurting breweries nationwide.

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[Link] Craft breweries feel shutdown impacts on multiple fronts

One notable group getting attention for the various ways it’s been hit by the federal government shutdown is Colorado’s $3 billion craft beer industry. Brewers looking to open locations, move addresses or expand operations are required to file paperwork with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, also known as the TTB. That department is closed during the shutdown, which means those permits are sitting on desks not getting filed. It can be a major blow for breweries that are currently paying rent but unable to launch their operations and collect revenue. Other breweries in the startup stage might have been expecting to get a Small Business Administration loan that they now can’t get, said Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Association, a Boulder-based trade group for craft beer. Established breweries are also feeling the burn of the shutdown. Breweries that ship beer across state lines require label approvals for new products, Watson said. And any brewery that makes beer using an ingredient not on a pre-approved list requires a federal formulation approval. The worst-case scenarios could be big for craft beer — an industry that has grown much since the last time there was a shutdown of a significant length. “If the shutdown drags on, then we could see fewer new beers in the marketplace and the ones we have are only locally distributed,” Watson said. “At a certain point we reach the end of the pipeline of breweries with their permits approved, and we’ll see no new openings. It’s a possibility that we could see a high percentage of brewers give up on the process if they’re spending money on rent and taking on cost with no revenue. Right now it’s not that bad and not existential. But the cost could be exponentially worse.” The current result of the shutdown has been a series of new roadblocks on top of several other challenges craft breweries have faced over the last few years. “Readers might not think this is that big of a deal,” Watson said. “Brewers just have to sell beers in-state, they can’t get new beers, big whoop. But it’s one more piece in a set of things making it more difficult for craft beer. Cans are hit by aluminum tariffs, the market is getting more competitive, costs are rising for raw materials. In and of itself it’s not the biggest challenge but it’s one more thing in a whole host of many small things brewers are dealing with.” While government shutdowns do happen, it’s difficult to plan for wild changes in the government, said Andres Gil Zaldana, executive director of the Colorado Brewers Guild. “Our members were taken by surprise,” Zaldana said. “Breweries are a low-margin business; there’s not a lot of reserves they can set aside, especially in startup breweries. Breweries are already startup often with a second or third mortgage. Owners use all their savings just to start one and it can take months to get out of the red. It’s difficult […]

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