By the time Omaha Beer Week rolls around next February, Tony Thomas hopes that Goldenrod Brewing Co., a new brewery on Farnam Street, is open for business.
Since he and his three co-owners signed the lease on the building in August, that has seemed like a feasible goal. Thomas is an experienced brewer who has worked for breweries in Nebraska and Colorado. He drafted the business plan for Goldenrod when he was still in college. And renovations to his space at 3562 Farnam St. are already underway.
But this month, he and Goldenrod's three other owners hit a roadblock. When nonessential federal government offices shut down earlier this month, a branch of the U.S. Treasury Department called the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau was among them. The bureau licenses new breweries.
Thomas was planning to apply for his license next week.
“I can't say we're not worried,” he said.
Without it, Goldenrod wouldn't be legally able to produce or sell beer. Without it, the brewery can't apply for a state liquor license.
And the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau — more commonly known as the TTB — isn't particularly speedy to start with. On its website, the TTB advises that applications for new breweries generally take about 65 days to process, though John Fahrer, a partner at another new Farnam Street brewery-to-be, Scriptown, has been advised by brewery-owning friends to plan for closer to three months for the license to come in.
Fahrer and his business partner have already begun to apply for their license through the TTB's website. But they can't work on their application any more until the TTB is back up and running.
“We're just stuck right now,” he said.
He's hopeful the office — along with all the other closed federal offices — will reopen soon.
Specifically, he hopes they'll reopen soon enough that Scriptown's tentative March opening isn't pushed back.
For now, Fahrer said, they're in the honeymoon period with their lease. But soon they'll have rent to pay. They'll also have bills for contractors and brewing equipment. And if they can't make or sell beer, the brewery won't be making money.
“That's a little scary,” Fahrer said.
Holly Mulkins, who owns the soon-to-open Borgata Brewery and Distillery downtown with her partner Zac Triemert, pointed out that as long as new breweries aren't making money, the government won't be collecting the taxes breweries pay on the alcohol they produce.
Still, Mulkins is hopeful that Borgata won't feel the sting of the shutdown too strongly.
“There are a lot of people much more affected than we are,” she said. “But it is our life and our livelihood, and we take it very seriously.”
Like Scriptown, Borgata was already mostly through the online application process when the shutdown hit. For now, Mulkins hopes the brewpub portion of Borgata will be up and running by the end of November, and that in-house production of beer will begin in January. And if it's not, they'll figure out something.
She hopes lawmakers can, too.
“If they could all get in a room and drink some craft beer, they could work it out,” she said.