Brewery sues U.S. government over sud-sidelining shutdown

Brewery sues U.S. government over sud-sidelining shutdown
WASHINGTON D.C. – Stuck with a lot of craft beer they can’t legally sell, Washington’s Atlas Brew Works has decided to brew up a court fight with the U.S. government.

In a lawsuit filed this week, the brewery alleges its First Amendment right to free speech is being denied because of the current government shutdown .

The problem for Atlas, and thousands of other craft breweries, is that those labels have to be approved by a government agency before new beers can be packaged and sold.

But the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, or TTB, is and is not processing new applications.

“The government is requiring us to obtain an unobtainable license before we speak,” said Cox. “That is a violation of our First Amendment rights.”

In this case, the beer in question is an apricot IPA called The Precious One. Atlas currently has around 4,500 litres of it sitting in a fermentation tank.

The Precious One was supposed to hit bars and store shelves in early February, but without label approval, it can’t leave the tank. Even worse, the product only has a 120-day lifespan before it goes bad.

“We are not trying to reopen the government with this suit, just want permission from the court to sell our beer,” said Cox.

Atlas is asking the courts to issue a temporary restraining order that would prevent the Department of Justice from prosecuting Atlas for using an unapproved label on its kegs.

Even when the shutdown ends, Atlas worries its product will be kept off the market for months, because of a huge backlog of approval requests with the TTB that could take six to eight weeks to clear.

“We might run into a situation where we have either a couple of weeks left of that beer being good to go to market, or maybe not at all,” he said.
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