'Expensive silliness:' Popular Triangle brewer says government shutdown preventing expansion

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- An unlikely victim of the government shutdown is the craft beer industry.

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which falls under the Department of Treasury, is closed because of the shutdown. The agency's website reads: "TTB will suspend all non-excepted TTB operations, and no personnel will be available to respond to any inquiries, including emails, telephone calls, facsimiles, or other communications. The website and operations will fully resume when appropriations are reenacted. TTB has directed employees NOT to report to work and they are prohibited by federal law from volunteering their services during a lapse in appropriations."

The bureau is responsible for, in part, reviewing beer labeling applications, brewer's notices (permits), and regulating requirements for the import and export of beer.

In the beer industry, brewers are able to continue creating new beers; however, they are unable to sell the beer in stores and restaurants.

"It's unfortunate. It's very expensive silliness," said Nick Johnson, co-founder of Ponysaurus Brewing in Durham. "If what (politicians) want to do is growing the economy, then this certainly isn't the way to do it. We can't innovate. We can't grow. We can't expand the way we'd like to. And that's not good for the folks that work with us here."

In 2016, Johnson introduced what he called "HB2 Beer." The can's label reads: DON'T BE MEAN TO PEOPLE.

Johnson has other products he would like to move out of his Durham brewery, but the shutdown is preventing him, and others, from doing so. But all hope is not lost.

"We're established at this point. We have a line of products in packaging that have been approved that we can continue selling," he said. "But folks that have gambled a lot and really taken a chance to do something great -- if they haven't gotten their packaging approved, then they're just stuck."

North Carolina is well-known for the rising number of breweries across the state. Every one of them is stuck in the same scenario.

"If this had happened to us when we were in the process of having bought the piece of equipment that cans beer that costs as much as my house ...it would be catastrophic," Johnson said. "And I'm sure that is the case for some people. It's not good for anybody."


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