Government shutdown stalls new craft beers in York City
The federal government shutdown is starting to affect a burgeoning York City industry — craft brewing.
Microbreweries regularly turn out new beers, a business model that's falling flat in the current political impasse.
In addition to closing national parks and complicating air travel, the shutdown that began Dec. 22 ceased operations at the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Among other functions, the bureau is responsible for approving labels on cans and bottles of alcoholic beverages.
"This is the first time this has really affected us personally," said Jason Snyder, co-owner of Gift Horse Brewing Co., one of six breweries in downtown York.
Gift Horse, 117 N. George St., has four labels waiting for approval, Snyder said Tuesday, Jan 8. The process typically takes about a week to 10 days, he said.
The four labels were submitted in mid-December, Snyder said.
"I checked the status of them through the website and it still says pending, but with the shutdown we're not expecting to see anything back until it lets up," he said. "And what is troublesome about it to us is we can't get label approval in Pennsylvania until we have the federal approval."
'Basically on hold': The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board requires the federal bureau's approval for any beer that will be sold in more than 100 barrels or that will be distributed off premises, said Jared Barnes, owner of Collusion Tapworks.
The shutdown has not yet impacted Collusion, 105 S. Howard St, but it will if it continues into next week, Barnes said on Jan. 8.
Currently all Collusion beers available for distribution have been approved, but the downtown brewery plans to release two new brews next week, he said.
"Those will have to be approved, and if we can't get them approved then we're basically on hold because we don't have any more inventory until we get rid of those beers," Barnes said.
Mudhook Brewing Co. owner Jeff Lau said the shutdown isn't immediately affecting his business but it might in the future.
Lau said he believes Mudhook uses a blanket label system that only needs to be reported once a year. However, Lau said he wasn't sure, adding that his son-in-law, who was not available for comment, handles that aspect of the business.
Crystal Ball owner Jesse De Salvo said the shutdown won't impact his brewery based on its business model, which isn't as centered around creating and selling new beers as some of the other city breweries.
'Sitting on the cans': Crystal Ball, 21 S. Beaver St., focuses on distributing and packaging 13 brands, he said. All of the brands were registered by the time of the shutdown, the most recent a few months ago, he said.
"The government should be back up and running by the time we want to register a new brand," De Salvo said on Jan. 8.
Downtown York is also home to Liquid Hero Brewery and Old Forge Brewing Co., whose owners did not respond for comment.
As for Gift Horse, Snyder said the brewery is essentially just "sitting on the cans," as he waits along with the rest of the country for the government to reopen.
Shutdown: The shutdown stems from President Donald Trump's demand for $5.7 billion for a wall along the nation's border with Mexico. The funding package Trump is refusing to approve was a stopgap bill passed by the Republican-controlled Senate on Dec. 19.
A notice on the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau's website said it would suspend "all non-excepted TTB operations and no personnel will be available to respond to any inquiries." The department's employees have been directed not to report to work, according to the notice.
While label approvals are put on hold, one crucial function is up and running — tax collections.
The notice states that during the shutdown period "you continue to be able to file electronic payments and returns for federal taxes and operation reports" online.
"It's a little disheartening that something we need we’re not able to get, but we're still expected to pay our excise taxes, our quarterly excise taxes, to the government on time," Snyder said.