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Louisiana Breweries Impacted by Federal Government Shutdown

Louisiana breweries might have fewer seasonal offerings this spring because of the partial shutdown of the federal government.

The agency responsible for approving licenses for new breweries and new labels for beer distributed out of state — the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau — is among those with shuttered operations amid the impasse in Washington over funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

"With every government shutdown that's happened since we opened, we've had a beer needing label approval," Karlos Knott of Bayou Teche Brewing in Arnaudville tells The Daily Advertiser . "And that results in beer we're just having to sit on." Knott, president of the Louisiana Craft Brewers Guild, said nearly every brewery in the state has been affected by the shutdown.

A new Baton Rouge brewer was days away from getting his licensing through the federal tax and trade bureau when the shutdown began Dec. 22. Now, he's paying about $10,000 per month for employees, space and equipment that can't be used until his permit arrives.

An established New Orleans brewer will be delayed in opening a second location, awaiting action from three federal agencies affected by the shutdown: the tax and trade bureau for a permit, the Small Business Administration for a loan and the IRS for an employer tax identification number. "It's frustrating," said Jacob Landry of Urban South Brewing in New Orleans.

"It makes you lose a little confidence in the institutions you rely on to operate your business." Louisiana brewers, however, can get new beer labels approved through the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control. They just can't distribute the state-approved beer outside of Louisiana.

That's unlike a few states that require all beer labels to be approved by the federal agency. "Most of the time when you submit a label for federal approval, you get an email back within a week or two," Knott said.

"But with the shutdown, the work has piled up so much that we're being told it'll be at least 45 days until they can get any approvals once the shutdown is over."

Once the shutdown ends, Louisiana's 33 craft breweries will be competing against more than 6,000 independent craft breweries across America for government services.