Waiting for the TTB’s approval for a new beverage manufacturer has always been frustrating. Unfortunately, that wait could get a lot longer, especially for new breweries.
Expect TTB Delays Through the End of 2015
The federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (the TTB) is rarely speedy when it comes to approving new beverage manufacturers, a pre-requisite for commencing operations. According to the TTB’s posted information, the average number of days for approval of a new brewery jumped from 115 days in July 2015 to 132 days in August 2015, and for new distilleries average processing time jumped from 114 days in July 2015 to 134 days in August 2015. Only winery approvals dropped in the same period, from 116 days in July 2015 to 102 days in August 2015. Since August, the delays have only gotten worse for breweries, and they might be awful for everyone come December 2015.
Since August 2015 and continuing at the time of this writing (October 10, 2015), the TTB has only one Supervisor with final authority to approve all new brewery applications (called a Brewer’s Notice). The TTB’s approval process for a new beverage manufacturer has three phases: Triage (during which an intake agent confirms that an application minimally passes muster), Specialist Review (during which a TTB Specialist reviews the application more closely and works with the applicant to include any missing information), and Supervisor Approval. With just one Supervisor, a new brewery application that cleared Specialist Review at the end of August was still waiting for Supervisor Approval over a month later. Until a new Supervisor is hired, these delays will continue and could grow through the fourth quarter of 2015.
Staffing issues aren’t the only thing that threaten delays for breweries and other beverage manufacturers hoping to get approval by year’s end. According to some reports, there’s a pretty good chance that the federal government will shutdown in mid-December 2015. The last government shutdown, in October 2013, resulted in significant delays for the approval of new breweries and other beverage manufacturers, as well as label and formula approvals.
How to Minimize Delays at the TTB
If you’re applying for approval of a new beverage manufacturer, you can’t eliminate TTB delays caused by staff shortage or government shutdowns, but there are some things you can do to minimize the time it takes the TTB to approve your application.
- Answer every question on the application and Owner-Officer Information (OOI) forms (including those questions about your weight and height).
- Complete OOI forms for all of the following:
- Every executive officer or manager
- Every member of an LLC
- Every partner of a partnership
- Shareholders of a corporation that own at least 10% of the common stock of the applicant
- Include specific details on the premises diagram–especially if the premises has a taproom or tasting room–including the interior dimensions, the capacity of all vessels, and the heights for half walls or bars that separate public areas from manufacturing areas.
- Make your narrative walkthrough of the premises as detailed as possible, so that a person reading just the walkthrough could complete navigate the premises.
Having filed over 20 new beverage manufacturer applications, we’ve learned a lot about what TTB Specialists want to see, but this is the biggest lesson: TTB Specialists are all different, and they all have a different understanding of what is or is not required. Don’t be surprise if when your TTB Specialist wants you to provide more or different information. Work with him or her to get your application finalized and passed on to the Supervisor as soon as possible.