Shutdown Red: Texas winery in label limbo as shutdown deal announced

State & Regional

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas (Nexstar) — The effects of the partial government shutdown has left thousands of government employees without paychecks, and even as President Donald Trump announced a deal to temporarily open the government for three weeks, the shutdown is also reaching the pocketbooks of small business owners.

Brandie Jewell owns a winery in New Braunfels, Texas. She bought Water 2 Wine a few years ago, after two decades of corporate work.

“As a small batch winery one of the things we are known for is releasing a new wine about every six weeks,” Jewell said. “That’s kind of the core of who we are, that’s why our customers come to us.”

Jewell explained that each time she releases a new wine, she must first get the label approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). The agency regulates the government warnings on those labels.

“It actually wasn’t until the beginning of January when I went to go submit my labels for all my new wines for the entire year that I realized there was nobody on the other side to receive them, to approve them, and we were just going to be stuck with all of our wines and not be able to sell them,” Jewell explained.

A message posted to the TTB website indicated submissions for certificates of label approval or exemption would still be accepted online, but would not be reviewed until the shutdown ends.

“TTB will suspend all non-excepted TTB operations, and no personnel will be available to respond to any inquiries, including emails, telephone calls, facsimiles, or other communications,” the TTB website message stated. “TTB has directed employees NOT to report to work and they are prohibited by federal law from volunteering their services during a lapse in appropriations.”

Even then, the backlog of submissions will delay label approvals.

“The shutdown is literally going to affect me for at least the next six months,” Jewell explained. “If the government were to open their doors tomorrow, my plans are still going to be messed up for several months after that because there is going to be such a backlog on the government agencies.”

“Even if the TTB were to open tomorrow, what used to take 2 to 3 weeks to get approval is probably going to take 2 to 3 months,” she lamented. “So, my entire year is in flux now as a business owner.”

To make light of the situation, Jewell has branded the unlabeled wine as “Shutdown Red,” and is selling it by the glass at the winery while she is unable to sell it by the bottle.

“The first couple of weeks, (it is) just a nuisance, but now it is starting to become a problem,” she explained. “Because, as I can’t release new wines, then I have less and less to offer my customers and that is absolutely going to start impacting sales and we think it’s going to happen sooner rather than later.”

Lawmakers in Washington pointed their fingers across the aisle.

“The impact of the Trump shut down reach is well beyond of those 800,000 families that are directly affected, so it affects food inspection, it affects some export permits, it affects the regulation in some cases of wine and liquor,” central Texas Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett, said earlier this week. “When the federal government shuts down we begin to appreciate the services that are lost.”

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said both parties would not be able to act alone in restoring government operations.

“On a daily basis we find a way to build consensus, solve problems here,” he stated Friday morning. “

“I have constituents who are for example are rationing their insulin because they can’t afford their co-pay or people who are borrowing money and maxing out their credit card or doing other things to try to make do because unfortunately, they are the hapless victims of this political standoff here in Washington D.C.,” he said.

Jewell said she was glad to see some political progress as the shutdown entered Day 35, and joked that she would send lawmakers a case of wine to help “smooth the negotiations.”

“We gotta laugh because we don’t want to cry,” she added. “I have a beautiful rosé that ready to be released for Valentine’s Day, and it’s just not going to happen.”

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