Daily Dispatches
NoDa Brewing Company beer on tap.
Photo via Facebook
NoDa Brewing Company beer on tap.

Shutdown gives brewery a federal hangover

Government

In an eclectic corner of Charlotte, N.C., a local crowd packs the taproom of NoDa Brewing Company nearly every night of the week.

Husband-and-wife team Todd and Suzie Ford opened the micro-brewery nearly two years ago in the city’s North Davidson (NoDA) neighborhood—a former mill community slowly revitalizing into a district for arts and eateries.

So far, it’s been a success: Aside from the regular taproom crowd, more than 300 restaurants and stores offer the beer on-tap or in bottles. In the last two years, the brewery has expanded from 75 barrels to more than 250 barrels.

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But these days, the government shutdown has given the private business a federal hangover. Since the agency that approves labels for beer bottles closed when the shutdown began nine days ago, the brewery can’t obtain labels for its newest brews. That keeps some of its ales off the market for now.

It’s a small example of the obvious dynamic the shutdown has underscored: The federal government is enmeshed in the details of American life.

Since the shutdown began, stories have abounded about tourists turned away from the Grand Canyon or blocked from simply looking at Mount Rushmore from roads near the monument. Private companies on federal lands have had their businesses shuttered, and officials have barred some military chaplains from conducting Mass—even voluntarily.

At NoDa Brewing, the holdup with labels is a headache for a couple that has poured their life savings into their small business. The Fords launched the brewery after the recession ended Suzie Ford’s job at a sports marketing company and curtailed Todd Ford’s job as a pilot with Airborne Express.

Banks spooked by the financial crisis were reluctant to loan lots of money to the couple for the business, so the Fords secured a relatively small loan, and financed most of the start-up from their own savings.

It’s a stark contrast to a federal government that spends $3.6 trillion a year without a budget, and has amassed a $17 trillion national debt.

Suzie Ford told The Charlotte Observer she must apply for labels for new beers through the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB)—an arm of the Treasury Department. The TTB closed its website to new applications on Oct. 1, but Ford said at least one part of the site remains open—the section that requires breweries to pay a monthly excise tax.

“It’s a funny thing,” she told the newspaper. “They’re shut down but they’re still gladly taking our money.”

Ford and her husband are in Denver this week for the Great American Beer Festival (where their Coco Loco beer won a top prize last year), and they hope the federal agency re-opens applications soon.

“You have all your overhead and infrastructure in place,” Ford said. “You just want to sell the beer.”

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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