Atlas Brew Works, a small craft brewery in Washington, D.C., has filed a lawsuit claiming that the recent government shutdown violated its First Amendment rights, according to an article from the ABA Journal. The brewery's lawsuit argues that the partial shutdown has infringed on its rights to speak with consumers via its beer labels, which are currently waiting for approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).
The TTB has been unable to review Atlas' application for label approval due to the shutdown, preventing the company from shipping kegs of its seasonal brew, named The Precious One, across state lines. While cans of the seasonal product have already received approval, none of its kegs can be included in interstate shipments until its application has been reviewed.
How Labeling Delays Impact Perishable Goods
The Precious One, a highly perishable India pale ale, is one of the brewery's most popular beers, but because of its short shelf life, it may not last until the shutdown is resolved. Atlas' lawsuit alleges that the delay threatens 40 barrels of its apricot-infused beer, valued at $5,000 by the brewery. The total planned production would have generated close to $15,000, but the delay has halted its production run. The suit is seeking an injunction that would ban acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker from enforcing a law that requires TTB approval for beer labels.
"We are asking the court to allow us to speak to our customers during this shutdown by permitting Atlas to sell our beer to out-of-state consumers," said Justin Cox, CEO and founder of Atlas Brew Works, in an email to CNN.
An early January article from The Brewers Association warned that a prolonged shutdown would seriously impact breweries across the country, pointing out that a lapse in TTB funding would cause applications to pile up. Although the government was reopened on January 25, it will likely take several months for TTB to work through the backlog of applications, keeping the door open for further market disruption.
Product labels are an important communication tool for companies in the food and beverage industry, as it provides consumers with useful information and businesses with a direct marketing opportunity. This is especially true for labels of alcoholic beverages, which inform customers about the beer's type, origin and alcohol content.