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Government Shutdown Snarls New Product Approval Process

January 16, 2019

As part of the partial government shutdown that began on December 22, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has suspended the approval process for bringing new alcoholic beverages to market. With the shutdown in its fourth week, craft brewers and wineries are feeling the pinch, and consequences could reverberate through 2019. “If the shutdown persists, it will gradually begin to impact consumers’ options in-store, as more wine producers won’t be able to release new products,” says Brett Vankoski, wine director at Latitude Beverage, producer of 90+ Cellars, Lila Wines, Mija Sangria, and others.

As long as the TTB is shut down, alcohol producers can submit new labels and access information about approved labels online, but will not receive approval or a response from the agency. “We haven’t had anything approved since the shutdown began in late December,” Vankoski says. “The spring season is particularly important for new wine releases, especially for our business. We have nearly 10 new launches slated for February and March, which are now delayed.”

While the shutdown affects producers in all categories, craft brewers—who are often reliant on a steady stream of new and seasonal releases—are especially at risk. The Wall Street Journal reports that Boston Beer Co.’s founder Jim Koch estimates that over $10 million in sales are at risk due to the shutdown. NBC and ABC affiliates from across the U.S. are reporting that local brewers are sitting on beer that’s ready to drink but illegal to sell. Unfortunately, the end of the shutdown will only be the beginning of relief. The TTB will have a substantial backlog to work through before any new releases can come to market.—Shane English

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