Government shutdown leaves breweries, small businesses in limbo

As the partial shutdown of the federal government enters its 25th day, the closure has created a small backlog of Small Business Administration loans, affecting more than 200 businesses nationally waiting on the loans, an SBA spokesman says.

And the shutdown is even affecting the beer business.

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Breweries not only must apply for approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau before they can start operations, they must get new beers approved through the bureau. That is one of the offices shuttered during the shutdown.

So the shutdown is affecting Monroe-based Rivertown Brewing Co., which “launches new beers all the time,” said owner and brewmaster Jason Roeper.

“I’ve got a big investment just sitting there that I can’t get a label approval for,” Roeper told Cox Media Group Ohio. “We had submitted everything before the shutdown happened and there’s a wait period.”

Steve Barnhart, owner of Lock 27 Brewing in Dayton, told the Dayton Daily News that the shutdown is not helpful for businesses on any number of fronts.

"Obviously, the TTB being shut down for a regulated industry is bad for us," he said. "It's bad for everyone. Right now, it's really affecting guys who are distributing across state lines or are larger players in the craft industry.

"While we haven't felt the effects of it yet, we would anticipate feeling the effects of the shutdown if it continues on over an extended period of time," Barnhart added.

The U.S. Small Business Administration typically handles about 200 loans daily for working capital via the SBA’s 7(a) program and another 120 loans for commercial properties through what the SBA calls the “504 program,” according to the Washington Post.

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Jim Billimoria, an SBA spokesman, acknowledged that the shutdown affecting about a quarter of federal government operations is having an impact on small businesses.

“The SBA continues to process 504 loans that were approved prior to Dec 22nd, and these loans will be funded,” Billimoria said. “For 7(a) loans (delegated and non-delegated), SBA stands ready to process the loans as soon as the lapse in appropriations ends.”

For loans considered “non-delegated,” the SBA has 278 loans that are awaiting processing, he added. But that amounts to just half a percent of all the 7a loans made last fiscal year, he noted.

“As has been the case in the past, once full operations are permissible, the SBA is well prepared to handle the incoming volume of the loan requests within a very short period,” he also said.

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504 loans are typically bigger, up to $20 million or more, with advantageous fixed interest rates. The other loans, 7(a), are far smaller, with mostly variable interest rates.

U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the House Committee on Small Business, recently wrote Linda McMahon, SBA administrator, asking about the shutdown’s impact.

“How does the SBA plan to address the loan backlog that will exist once the shutdown ends,” Velazquez asked in the letter.

“Once full operations are permissible, the SBA is fully prepared to handle higher volume of loan requests to satisfy any unmet demand,” Billimoria told the Dayton Daily News.

Staff Writer Eric Schwartzberg contributed to this story. 

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