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With backlog affecting brewers, Schumer urges action

Chuck Schumer at Genesee Brewery
James Brown WXXI
Chuck Schumer at Genesee Brewery

A backlog on the federal level is hurting local brewers.

Sen. Chuck Schumer brought that message to Rochester’s Genesee Brewery on Monday. Schumer said brewers are heavily regulated and must file applications with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau in order to release new flavors, update labels or change the size of a bottle.

He said the partial federal shutdown in December and January caused a backlog of over 10,000 applications, which could delay summer releases.

“Summer is beer drinking season,” Schumer said. “Sixty percent of the sales at Genesee occur from Memorial Day to the end of September.”

Geoff Dale owns local craft brewery Three Heads on University Avenue. He said a delay or another shutdown could hurt his business. Delays prevent brewers like Three Heads from adding to their line of products.

“If we lose four batches for a summer seasonal -- because we try to put something out every month -- it could impact our bottom line by $100,000,” Dale said. “And for a smaller business with about 30 employees, that has a huge impact on us.”

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Paul Leone is the executive director of the New York State Brewers Association. He said that close to 100 brewers in New York state are looking for TTB approval to go into business.

“They’re paying rent on buildings,” Leone said. “They’re paying money on loans. And they’re anticipating being open at a certain date so they can start paying some of this back. And the fact that it’s in limbo. They could go out of business before they get a chance to go into business.”

Schumer is asking that the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau take action now.

“So A, we need TTB right now, starting today, to rev it up,” Schumer said. “To start approving those applications quickly. And B, we need to avoid a shutdown so we don’t go through this again.”

James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.