Washington, D.C.’s Atlas Brew Works is suing the federal government over the inability to sell one of its beers as a result of the government shutdown. The suit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in D.C., DCist reports.
“The Precious One,” an apricot IPA, cannot be sold in kegs over state lines because those labels have not been approved. Although can labels for the beer were approved before the shutdown, keg collars were not. This leaves 40 barrels of IPA sitting in limbo, unsellable, and taking up valuable tank space at the brewery.
Atlas Brew Works is filing the suit against acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker on the grounds that the government is violating the brewery’s First Amendment rights, saying its labels are a form of speech. “[T]hat’s how we speak to consumers,” Justin Cox, founder and CEO, said. “We’re unable to exercise that right without approval from the federal government.”
“We don’t want Atlas to be prosecuted for speaking to its customers,” Alan Gura, Atlas’ attorney, said. “We can’t force the government to reopen, we can’t make them go to work, but the court should not allow Atlas to be prosecuted for speaking without an unavailable license.”
Gura also represented Flying Dog Brewery for a freedom of speech suit in 2015 regarding that brewery’s “Raging Bitch” label. (They succeeded.)
Whether Atlas wins this case is difficult to predict, but it emphasizes the shutdown’s impact on brewery production schedules.
At the very least, Atlas Brew Works also made headlines this week with a slightly more positive result of the shutdown: the company is among the first to sign on to “Pay it Furloughed,” a project providing free beer to federal employees who are without pay at this time.