First Amendment

Craft brewery's suit says government shutdown is harming its First Amendment labeling rights

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Image from Atlas Brew Works.

Craft brewery Atlas Brew Works in Washington, D.C., claims in a lawsuit that the partial government shutdown is violating its First Amendment rights to speak to consumers on beer labels for kegs of its seasonal brew the Precious One.

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau can’t review Atlas’ application for label approval because of the shutdown, according to the lawsuit, filed in Washington, D.C., federal court Tuesday., the Hill and CNN have coverage.

The label delay threatens 40 barrels of the Precious One, a perishable apricot-infused India pale ale. The labels are needed for interstate shipment of the beer kegs. Atlas did receive label approval for its can labels, however.

“We are asking the court to allow us to speak to our customers during this shutdown by permitting Atlas to sell our beer to out-of-state consumers,” Atlas CEO and founder Justin Cox told CNN via email.

The labels convey essential information, such as a beer’s brand name, type, origin and alcohol content, according to the lawsuit. Labels contain other useful information, such as suggested pairings and Atlas’ web address.

Atlas valued the current 40-barrel batch at $5,000, and the total planned production run at $15,000.

The suit seeks an injunction banning the acting attorney general, Matthew G. Whitaker, from enforcing the law that requires federal approval of beer labels.

The lawyer representing Atlas is Alan Gura, known for his successful Second Amendment cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gura also represented the Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, Maryland, in a successful suit claiming its First Amendment rights were violated when Michigan regulators refused to register a beer label called Raging Bitch.

See also: “Federal judiciary says money won’t run out just yet” “Federal employees forced to work without pay during government shutdown lose bid for TRO” “How some law firms are affected by the government shutdown” “What the government shutdown looks like inside federal prisons” “ABA offers free CLE to lawyers impacted by partial government shutdown” “Shutdown halts many immigration hearings; federal courts could be affected” “What happens after federal courts run out of money to continue operations?”

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