WICHITA, Kansas - The government shutdown is even affecting what you can find on store shelves, including the liquor you drink.
David Bahre is getting ready to open Wichita's first distillery, wanting to prove he can make some of the world's best liquor with wheat.
"Artisan-produced products are really popular right now," he said. "It's a growing market, and some of the best whiskeys in the world are made from wheat, and the best wheat in the world is in my backyard."
Bahre started Wheat State Distilling, which will produce gin, vodka, whiskey, bourbon and rum from its facility in north Wichita.
"We are ready to hire employees, sell product and pay taxes, but until the government goes back to work, we're unable," he said.
But the government shutdown has effectively shut down the distillery before it could even produce its first drop to drink. Bahre expected an uphill battle against regulators, but the shutdown put a freeze on all permits and approvals, including the last one Bahre needs to start production.
"We've been waiting on label approval at least 30 days already, and we just don't know when we're going to be able to start," he said.
The Alcohool and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, known more commonly as TTB, is a wing of the Treasury Department that approves labels. Normally, it takes the bureau about 38 days to approve labels, but even before the shutdown, it had a one-month backlog of applications to get through before Wheat State could get theirs approved, Bahre said.
Nevertheless, the company is ready to serve customers eager to support a Kansas-made liquor brand.
"The market is there, the distribution network is there, the product quality is there," Bahre said. "It's just bureaucracy."
Bahre has poured in thousands of dollars a month just to keep the lights on for his dream, and is hoping the impasse comes to an end.
"I'm not bitter, but they need to get their act together," he said. "It really is hurting small business and is costing us an enormous amount of money, to wait, to just wait with our hands tied."
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