The squeaky wheel doesn’t always get the grease, but you’ve got a better chance if there’s a lawsuit in play.
Earlier today the government’s lawyers filed notice in the ongoing First Amendment lawsuit brought by Atlas Brew Works against the TTB seeking to keep the TTB from enforcing its restrictions on selling beer in interstate commerce without label approval while the TTB refused to give label approval during the government shutdown.
As we posted before here on Libation Law Blog, the case is important as it brings to light some interesting questions about the TTB’s process, especially during a shutdown where the TTB refuses to process labels for approval. The Cato institute recently published a short inquiry about the matter asking why the government is even involved in pre-sale approval as opposed to simply looking to enforce the labelling statute and regulations on an as-needed post-sale basis.
With so much on the line, it makes sense that the government might try to side-step the case by looking to moot it in approving the one label in the case that the plaintiff really focused on – Atlas’s Precious One. And it appears that’s exactly what happened. We’ve embedded the filing the government made showing they’d approved the label along with the label approval below. You can download it here (link).
What’s preferential about this is that the current wait times (updated as of this morning) as told by the TTB are 48 days for beer labels (thank’s shutdown) and the TTB reports that it’s currently on labels from December 13. Here’s a screenshot from the COLA processing page:
That’s an entire week’s time from the December 20, 2018 submission of the Precious One. It’s clear there was some push to get this label approved, but what’s still unknown is how this will impact the lawsuit.
As we briefly noted yesterday, there’s still the potential for a future shutdown, in which case, this issue isn’t moot, although the controversy over the Precious One’s keg collar might be. Also, the suit involved allegations of the failure to approve multiple labels, not just the Precious One, and there’s no indication that those were filed.
Indeed, dismissing this case now, just means that in three weeks’ time, someone will be able to file the exact same suit if the shutdown happens again keeping TTB from approving labels. We’ll keep you posted.
Here’s the government’s filing about the label approval from today: