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Uh-oh: The government shutdown may lead to fewer new craft beers, wines

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau helps regulate labeling in the beverage industry, but it's temporarily closed.

If you notice fewer new beers on store shelves later this year, you may have the legislative stalemate on Capitol Hill to blame.

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, or TTB, is closed due to the partial government shutdown. It is the responsibility of that federal agency to approve the labeling of new craft beers and wines before they are sold to the public.

Local brewers, like Atlas Brew Works have already been impacted by the agency's temporary closure.

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"We have about eight labels in particular right now that are waiting for approval," said Justin Cox, founder and CEO of Atlas Brew Works.

He added that his business had plans to put out several new beers in the near future.  

"We have a new beer that we were hoping to release this spring that we are not able to because the label has not been approved," he said.

Cox said the shutdown of TTB is impacting the entire alcoholic industry.

Erika Goedrich owns Craft Beer Cellar DC, a craft beer store in Northeast, DC.

She recently wrote a newsletter that highlighted the potential business impact of TTB's closure.

"Bill Butcher, the founder of Port City Brewing in Alexandria, really opened my eyes to the downstream effect," Goedrich said. "It's not just that they (craft brewers) can't get new beers to us, but there's farmers who supply their grains, hops suppliers, label makers, the people who make their boxes, everybody is impacted."

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She said that all comes on top of the basic economic challenge that the government shutdown presents to small businesses like hers.

"Our customers start to tighten their budgets, which means, potentially, less spending here," she said.

Cox said it typically takes TTB anywhere from two to three weeks to process a label for a new alcoholic beverage. However, he said he is unsure of how long the process will take when TTB tackles its backlog following the conclusion of the partial government shutdown.

"Once funding has been restored and the government shutdown is over, we will work to restore regular service as soon as possible," reads the TTB website.

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