BEDFORD – The government shutdown is drying up the craft brewing business. 2019 is off to a rough start for local breweries and wineries as the government shutdown continues to keep brewers in limbo.
Wineries like Peaks of Otter in Bedford have put some production on hold, all because they're waiting on a government issued label.
Each unique bottle there has its own story and its own name. Despite the work it takes to fill the shelves of this small business, that's not what's holding up co-owner Danny Johnson; it's just the label.
"It's been very frustrating," Johnson said.
The winery needs approval from the federal alcohol and tobacco tax and trade bureau, but because of the government shutdown the agency isn't operating. Peaks of Otter, along with hundreds of other wineries and breweries have sent in their formulas are remain waiting for the TTB's approval of these labels. Johnson mailed his in before Christmas.
"Some of these we are almost out of,” Johnson explained. Even bottles that have been previously approved need approval each time labels are issued. While many remain hopeful of Friday’s talks of a deal in Washington, the problem won’t immediately be fixed. Even when the U.S.'s longest partial government shutdown ends, Johnson said the backlog of requested labels will be massive.
“The longer that this thing goes, the farther backed up the TTB is going to get,” Johnson said.
In the winery business, Johnson said timing is everything, and this year it couldn't be worse.
"We should be bottling, we should be working in here,” said Johnson as he showed 10 News the place the wine is created.
Concentration on creating new wines, and even a cider is now at a standstill. Although Peaks of Otter is known for its wine, Johnson said they were planning to launch a brewery in May, but now because of the government shutdown, that's being put on hold.
“This is really a trickle-down effect. I guarantee it’s more than just government employees hurting,” Johnson said. And while government employees will receive back pay when the government inevitably reopens, that’s little comfort for Johnson.
“Each one of us are losing money. The dollar that we don't get, they are not going to pay it back to us. It's gone,” Johnson said.
Money's already been invested into starting Peaks of Otter's brewery, but now he doesn't know if or when he'll be able to put that money to good use.
“I don't see it opening up anytime soon. I really don't. I see it getting a lot worse before it gets better,” Johnson said.
But Johnson is a true farmer, and like a true farmer he’s keeping his head down, hard at work, hoping for the best while facing circumstances out of his control.