Craft Industry Boom Ties Up the TTB

Law Offices of John P. Connell, P.C.: Filing an Application with the TTB for a Basic Permit, Brewery, Distillery or Winery Permit can be a daunting task with all of the documents and information required, but even when the application is finally ready for submission, trying to move the application through the TTB can be even more frustrating due to the explosive growth of applications being filed in the craft beer, cider and distillery industry. Indeed, although applications from the “craft industry” have grown exponentially in the last two or three years, the staffing level at the TTB to handle all these applications has remained relatively stagnant. The TTB on its website currently lists “Average Number of Days to Completely Process Original Applications to Operate” through its “Permits Online System” for the following different types of new applications:

  • Brewery- 122.91 days
  • Bonded Winery- 119.87 days
  • Distilled Spirits Plants: 123.58 days

Although the TTB publishes these estimated “Average Number of Days,” anyone who has filed an application with the TTB over the last year or so will confirm that the actual wait time can exceed these posted estimates. Indeed, many applications get held up because the applicant has failed to submit a required piece of information, which will, in many cases, bring the TTB review of the matter to a complete halt until that piece of information is supplied. Even small requests for minor additional information can add weeks to the TTB process as the TTB investigator often times will then turn their attention to other applications that are already complete and will only then return to the lacking application at a later time. Some in the industry complain that their application was not even opened until after the so-called “average days” posting by the TTB.

In order to resolve this issue of excessive wait times for permits, it seems necessary that increased funding for the TTB is required, considering how much craft businesses have become an up-and-coming job source. Funding stagnation and even budget cuts for the TTB over the past few years has caused otherwise “ready to go” businesses many months of not being able to even start their businesses or commit to the acquisition or equipment or even the construction of their plant facilities. With inspectors having the role of auditing and reviewing permit and license requests, as well as product labels and various other elements of the craft beverage industry, it’s not surprising for application approval to be delayed by hundreds of days.

In May, 2015 New York State Senator Charles E. Schumer visited Black Button Distilling, Rochester NY’s first “grain to glass” craft distillery, and announced his push for funding necessary for the TTB in order for the TTB to hire more federal inspectors (also referred to as “specialists”) to review and approved delayed permit applications required for distilleries, breweries and wineries to open and emerge their business. During his announcement for the push for funding, Senator Shumer touched on examples of how delays in application approval have resulted in cost industry and are delaying potential growth in the industry of craft distilleries, breweries and wineries, and stated he was behind a push to increase the TTB budget this year by an additional ten million dollars just to hire additional “specialists” to get the TTB approval process into high gear.

Submitted by Amanda Driscoll

2015 © Law Offices of John P. Connell, P.C.

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