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By Ethan Sacks

There’s trouble brewing in the craft beer industry over the government shutdown.

Because the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has been furloughed by the partial government shutdown, breweries have been unable to secure necessary approvals from the agency’s tax and trade bureau — ranging from permits for new facilities to new labels on cans.

In an business dependent on releasing and marketing new beers regularly to quench its customers’ expectations for novelty, those delays could potentially be financially devastating.

“It’s really that question mark that’s the scary part, because we don’t have that end in sight,” Mariah Scanlon, brand manager for Smuttlab, a line from Smuttynose Brewing Company in Hampton, New Hampshire, told NBC News.

“You can’t develop a contingency strategy without knowing how long [the shutdown] is going to go on.”

Snaccident by Smuttlabs, a division of Smuttynose.Courtesy Smuttynose

To ship beer over state lines, breweries need certificates of label approvals from the ATF’s trade bureau for any new packaging or beer branding. Last year alone, the government agency processed 34,166 label applications for malt beverages, an average of 93.6 a day, according to the trade group, the Brewers Association.

Brewers producing new recipes that fall outside the bureau’s pre-approved list also require a formula approval.

As the shutdown lingers, a backlog of those requests continue to pile up, ensuring that the approval delays will stretch even after the the bureau gets back to work.

“It’s tough being a small owner and the craft beer industry is a tough industry to be in,” said Rob Burns, co-founder and president of Night Shift Brewing in Everett, Massachusetts.

“Business is really so unpredictable and fragile and things that are completely out of control can have a big impact on us,” Burns said.

“It’s not just us that gets hurt, it’s also the retailers and bar owners. I think the damage of this situation is going to be really hard to calculate and far reaching.”

Particularly hard-hit have been those waiting for the processing of “brewer’s notices,” permits for new breweries or expansions of existing facilities. The latter has left a bad taste in the mouths of the ownership of the Alementary Brewing Company in Hackensack, New Jersey.

Co-owner Michael Roosevelt told MSNBC’s Lester Holt on Thursday that the company recently invested $1 million in capital equipment and other costs to lease a new facility across the street from its current brewhouse to increase production.

Without official approval, it’s become little more than an anchor threatening to submerge the company deep into debt.

“I’m feeling the pinch right now because…I was expecting that approval this month,” Roosevelt said. “I’m spending about a thousand dollars a day between my lease, utilities and the equipment and I was expecting to start seeing some revenue in the next couple of weeks.

“With the shutdown continuing for who knows how long I don’t know when I’m going to get some revenue which means that I’m going to quickly get to a point where I don’t have a thousand dollars a day to keep spending.”

In a sign of how much the lapse in appropriations is slowing down the ATF, a representative told NBC News that the agency is no longer officially responding to requests for comment on any subjects not related to national security.

“There is one part of the TTB that is still operational: They’re still collecting beverage excise taxes,” said Jen Kimmich, co-owner of Alchemy Beer, the maker of Heady Topper, a favorite of IPA connoisseurs, referring to the tax and trade bureau.

While the permits are necessary for breweries across the industry, the bureaucratic standstill is hitting midsize companies particularly hard, said Burns. Smaller breweries that just serve their beer in taprooms or at local bars do not need the approvals, and the larger industry titans, like Anheuser-Busch, can easily absorb the financial hit with their signature brands. It’s the mid-tier breweries that have taken the biggest hit.

Night Shift Brewing in Everett, Massachusetts.Tim Oxton / Night Shift Brewing

“The craft beer industry accounts for more than 23 percent of the $111.4 billion U.S. beer market, and small breweries and beermakers introduce new and seasonal products with less lead time than larger breweries, making delays in permits are particularly impactful.” Brewers Association President and CEO Bob Pease said in a statement.

Many of the affected breweries have been forced to improvise.

Cape May Brewing Co. had drawn up plans months ago to introduce a new beer called Eminently Drinkable at Boston’s prestigious Extreme Beer Festival — down to the recipe, the design and the label. Once the shutdown threw the applications in limbo, however, the brewery scrambled to come up with a plan B in time.

“We did have a brand-approved label for a Beer Name Ale that was originally just meant to be a placeholder,” says marketing director Alicia Grasso. “So now we’re going to Boston under that name.”

“We were going to go to that festival no matter what,” she said.

Jake Heller contributed.

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EU reacts after anti-Brexit campaigners march through London – 'VERY TELLING IMAGES'

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THE European Commission has described the images of a reported one million people marching through the streets of London against Brexit as “very telling” as the UK continues to stumble over its withdrawal from the European Union.

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As Dems grapple with Omar fallout, GOP plugs more measures on anti-Semitism

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By Rebecca Shabad

WASHINGTON — As Democrats grapple with divisions over the best way to address rising anti-Semitism in the U.S., congressional Republicans have been pushing for a more aggressive approach — and angling for political dividends.

A fresh effort came from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who planned to introduce a measure Tuesday afternoon that would directly condemn “all forms of anti-Semitism,” a GOP aide told NBC News Monday, following the recent controversial remarks made by Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., about Jewish lawmakers.

The resolution, obtained by NBC, alludes to the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust and states that “anti-Semitism has for hundreds of years included attacks on the loyalty of Jews, including the fabrication and circulation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion by the secret police of Russia.”

Critics have accused Omar of deploying the “dual loyalty” charge Jews have grappled with for centuries.

GOP leaders are planning to hold a floor vote on Cruz’s proposal, according to The New York Times. An aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., declined to confirm the plan.

The latest Republican push comes shortly after the tumultuous week House Democrats spent earlier this month split over how to respond to Omar’s comments, the latest in a series of remarks from the freshman lawmaker to spark similar controversy.

Initially, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., aimed for a simple resolution condemning anti-Semitism without addressing Omar directly. But that strategy ignited pushback from some progressive members of the Democratic caucus, who pressed leadership for a measure that encompassed hatred against a number of minority groups. The House ultimately passed the resolution in a 407-23 vote.

At the time, Republicans criticized Democrats for the approach, arguing that a resolution lumped anti-Semitism in with other forms of hatred would deliver a weaker message.

Cruz’s measure was the most recent in a string of proposals from GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate this session geared to fighting anti-Semitism.

Rep. Gregory Steube, R-Fla., introduced a measure this month that would directly disapprove of “the anti-Semitic comments made by Representative Omar.” In January, Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., who is Jewish, introduced a resolution with a group of other Republicans that would “reject anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hatred in the United States and the world” that specifically mentioned Omar.

Rep. Ron Wright, R-Texas, unveiled a resolution earlier this year that, in addition to condemning anti-Semitism, called on federal law enforcement to investigate all credible reports of hate crimes, incidents and threats against the Jewish community.

Meanwhile, the White House has used Omar’s comments as a cudgel to attack House Democrats, with Vice President Mike Pence slamming Democrats over the remarks in a speech at the American Israel Political Action Committee’s annual policy meeting on Monday.

“Anti-Semitism has no place in the Congress of the United States, and any member who slanders those who support the historic alliance between the United States and Israel with such rhetoric should not have a seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee,” Pence said of her spot on the panel.

“The [Democratic] party that has been the home of so many American Jews for so long today can no longer muster the votes to unequivocally condemn anti-Semitism,” he added.

President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly blasted Democrats for their reaction to Omar’s remarks and suggested that Jewish voters would soon flock to Republican candidates, recently tweeted a comment from a Fox News guest warning of political consequences for the opposing party over the issue.

“Jewish people are leaving the Democratic Party. We saw a lot of anti Israel policies start under the Obama Administration, and it got worsts & worse. There is anti-Semitism in the Democratic Party. They don’t care about Israel or the Jewish people.” Elizabeth Pipko, Jexodus,” Trump tweeted.

According to the American Jewish Population Project at Brandeis University, 54 percent of American Jews identify as Democrats and 14 percent identify as Republicans. Thirty-two percent said that they don’t identify with either party. A 2018 survey conducted by the Jewish advocacy organization AJC found that 51 percent of American Jews consider themselves Democrats and 16 percent consider themselves Republicans.

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Latino group launches “Run, Joaquín, Run” to get other Castro twin on the ballot

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By Suzanne Gamboa

AUSTIN — Texas Democrats are waiting for the news from U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro on whether they’ll have another competitive Senate race this year.

There is anticipation that he’ll soon announce whether he’ll take on longtime incumbent Sen. John Cornyn, the state’s senior senator, and with that anticipation is the question whether changed demographics and a Latino Democrat on the ballot will help break the Republican dominance of Texas’ statewide elected offices.

While the wait is on for the expected word that Castro is running, Latino Victory Fund has launched a “Run Joaquín, Run”campaign to push along his decision and build support among Latino voters.

The digital campaign was created to generate grassroots interest among Latinos in a potential Castro candidacy.

“There is no doubt that Sen. Cornyn is vulnerable and we are ready to build a grassroots army to recruit and support Joaquin Castro to run and win in 2020,” Melissa Mark Viverito, Latino Victory Fund interim president, said in a statement last week.

The fund backs Latino Democratic candidates.

Castro has been dropping suggestions that he may be ready to do run, as has his twin brother, 2020 presidential candidate Julián Castro.

A week ago, Castro sent a tweet to Cornyn with biting criticism for the senator. He asserted that Cornyn failed to call him back when he asked for him to support his bill.

The tweet was in response to comments by Cornyn to a San Antonio media outlet that had asked him about a possible challenge from Castro. Cornyn had said he didn’t know Castro very well.

Castro was elected to the U.S. House in 2012, moving from Texas’ Legislature to Congress while Barack Obama was still in the White House. But Republicans’ were in charge and Democrats could move forward little legislation as the minority party, a reality that frustrated Castro.

With Democrats newly in charge of the U.S. House Castro’s profile has risen. He heads the growing Congressional Hispanic Chamber as its chairman this year.

He has made himself better known recently by sponsoring the resolution to terminate the national emergency declared by President Donald Trump to bypass Congress and get the funding needed to build a wall on the southern border.

The House approved its resolution and the Senate approved a similar one but the measure is expected to be vetoed by Trump.

Several Republicans in the Senate joined Democrats in voting to end Trump’s emergency declaration.

But Cornyn and Texas’ other senator Ted Cruz, who narrowly defeated Democrat Beto O’Rourke in 2018 to keep his Senate seat, were not among them.

Cornyn already has close to $6 million for his campaign. His campaign solicitations had been focused on O’Rourke. They warned against a “Beto Texas” and asked for contributions to a Stop Beto Fund.

Event though O’Rourke is now a declared 2020 Democratic candidate for president, Cornyn’s solicitations continue to use him for fundraising, urging contributors to “Stand With Trump” and against an O’Rourke candidate who has said he thinks he can win Texas.

Cornyn already has made key hires: John Jackson, who led Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s campaign last year, is campaign manager and former Texas Republican Party chairman Steve Munisteri as a campaign adviser.

In Texas, about a third or to about 40 percent of Latinos who vote cast their ballot for Republicans, depending on the race. About 48 percent of Latinos who voted in Texas’ 2014 election backed Cornyn, according to exit polling, according to Cornyn’s campaign.

But in 2018, there were big increases in Latino turnout in heavily Latino counties, according to Latino Decisions, a firm that has done polling for Democrats. The increases are considered part of the reason the state saw Democrats win state and congressional seats and places on appeals courts.

Although he had almost 40 times as much money as his gubernatorial opponent Lupe Valdez, Abbott won 42 percent of the Latino vote – about what he has in past years, while 53 percent of Latinos in Texas voted for Valdez, according to Pew Research Center.

Still, Cornyn has been elected to three terms – which are six years for U.S. senators. Democrats are counting on his support for Trump to also help keep him from a fourth term.



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