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The Government Shutdown Could Lead This Kansas City Brewery To Give Away Beer

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3
The beer canning line at the soon-to-open City Barrel Brewing sits idle during the partial shut down of the federal government.

Even breweries are feeling the pinch of the partial federal government shutdown.  

“The regulating body that we have to submit all of our labels to, to get approved by is shut down,” says James Stutsman, founder of City Barrel Brewing.

Stutsman shared his story onKCUR's Central Standard Wednesday.

He and his partners are opening a brewery and eatery near 17th and Holmes in Kansas City, Missouri. Part of the business, he says, is to sell the beer in cans. “A big part of our portfolio is canned beer to go. Because there’s nothing more beautiful than this” — and here Stutsman makes the sound of a beer can opening — “in your back yard.”

The agency that approves beer can labels is something called the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. For some reason, its acronym is simply TTB.

Stutsman says TTB makes sure the labels on beer cans list the surgeon general's warning and the alcohol content and that the label makes no false claims. It usually takes about three weeks to get approved, he says.

But when you go to the TTB website, this is what it says that "submissions will not be reviewed or approved until appropriations are enacted." TTB says it will tackle the backlog of submissions "once funding has been restored and the government shutdown is over."

Even if the government reopened today, City Barrel Brewing would still be stuck with 500 gallons of unsellable beer, Stutsman says. “The first beer we made is an IPA. IPAs are meant to be drank fresh.” Plus it takes a month to six weeks to get the cans once the label is approved by regulators.

So, what to do?  “I can’t sell it. I can’t package it, so we’re just going to give it away for free.”

Stutsman figures he is out $3,000 to $4,000. “It’s troubling,” he says. “I don’t sleep much.”

The business isn't in peril because of the shutdown. It can still sell food and draught beer. But there is a new appreciation for government workers.  “You feel bad," Stutsman says. "But until you actually get stuck in that situation you can’t really empathize as well.”

Sam Zeffis KCUR's metro reporter. You can follow Sam on Twitter @samzeff

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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