Above: Congressman Josh Gottheimer and Alementary co-owners Mike Roosevelt (left) and Blake Crawford (center) discuss the brewing company’s expansion that has been put on hold since the government shutdown
HACKENSACK, NJ – Today, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) visited the Alementary Brewing Company in Hackensack, where plans for expansion have been put on hold, because of the partial federal government shutdown.
After purchasing nearly $1 million in equipment and renting a newly vacant building across the street, Alementary planned to expand its facilities and production by the end of February; however, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which craft brewers count on to approve labels for new drinks and licences for new facilities, is closed during the shutdown. While Alementary Co-Owners Mike Roosevelt and Blake Crawford pay rent on their space and loans on their new equipment, the location remains idle and opening day is pushed back, waiting for approval from the TTB before moving forward.
Gottheimer voted last week and will vote again this week to reopen the government and fund essential agencies including the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).
“Mike Roosevelt and Blake Crawford decided to take a risk and leave their jobs to start a small business together. Their dream and their vision has blossomed into the Alementary Brewing Company in fewer than three years. But their progress – and many small businesses like them – are being held up by the government shutdown that I fiercely oppose. It’s enough of the political games that put businesses and jobs in harm’s way; it’s time to reopen the government,” Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) said, “Alementary is a case study in jobs, development, and growth all being put on hold because of this absurd government shutdown. We are standing in the building where Alementary is prepared to expand its brewing operations. Alementary wants to grow its business, and invest in the North Jersey economy. This business has nearly $1 million in equipment sitting behind me lying dormant, running up costs as the shutdown drags on, rather than paying for itself. For breweries like Alementary, for craft beer lovers, for the New Jersey economy, for the safety of our citizens, Washington must reopen the government as soon as possible.
Gottheimer continued, “This is, obviously, no way to govern. We should sit down and work things out, like people do every day in their lives – not shut the government down and walk away. Last week, after the new Congress was sworn in, Republicans and Democrats, including all 12 of New Jersey’s representatives in the House, and many in the Problem Solvers Caucus, voted to reopen the government and save these services for families and businesses across our state.”
“We appreciate the congressman’s efforts to end the shutdown. At Alementary, we are sitting on nearly a million dollars worth of equipment that we can’t use to brew new beer until the government reopens to approve our permits. It’s time to reopen the government so small businesses like us can keep growing and thriving,” said Alementary Co-Owners Mike Roosevelt and Blake Crawford.
Video of the announcement can be found HERE.
Congressman Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below:
Mike and Blake decided to take a risk and leave their jobs, Mike as a molecular biologist, and Blake at Viacom, to start a small business together. They wanted to start a brewery that was more than a just a business. It was somewhere people could come together and meet new friends, and find a new community with people they might not otherwise spend time with.
Their dream and their vision has blossomed into what we see today in fewer than three years. But, we are gathered together today because their progress – and many small businesses like them – are being held up by the government shutdown that I fiercely oppose. It’s enough of the political games that put businesses and jobs in harm’s way; it’s time to reopen the government.
A few years ago, Mike and Blake pitched the idea of starting a brewery to towns around Bergen County. Hackensack jumped at the chance and welcomed them with open arms, excited at the vision Mike and Blake had in mind. So, they found a place in Hackensack and got to work, applying for permits, buying equipment, and, of course, perfecting a recipe.
In April of 2016, that dream became a reality and Alementary opened up shop joining the ranks of New Jersey’s nearly 862,000 small businesses – businesses that create jobs, opportunity, and economic growth in communities across our state. Small business jobs make up about half of all private sector jobs in New Jersey, and, when it comes to the craft beer industry, we’ve seen a 43 percent growth since 2015. That’s tied for first with Kentucky.
I’m lucky enough to have twelve microbreweries in my District, including three alone in Hackettstown that I’ve visited — Cig Meister, Man Skirt Brewing, and Jersey Girl Brewing. We have 97 production breweries in the state; they contributed $1.69 billion to the New Jersey economy in 2017.
Mike and Blake never thought they’d be entrepreneurs, but here they were less than three years ago, opening their own business – and it’s really taken off. Alementary now brews 60,000 gallons of beer a year, and their tasting room has become exactly what they had hoped: a catalyst for a new community, where people from different walks of life could sit, talk, and share a beer. They attract visitors from all over Jersey – and brewery tourists from outside our state. Mike even tells me that friends who met here have gone to each other’s weddings.
Like many local businesses, Mike and Blake are involved in the community; they donate a portion of the money they make each month to a different local charity, supporting Jersey veterans, the LGBTQ community, and pet rescue projects. They even host a yoga class in the tasting room where I am told Marjie, their dog, helps everyone out with their poses. Mike and Blake never stop looking for new ways to contribute; they’ve even held fundraisers for local causes including highlighting local artists in their tasting room.
The hard and rewarding work of running a small business had Mike and Blake thinking about expansion, and when another vacancy in this building opened up, being the entrepreneurs that they are, they leapt at the chance.
They invested nearly a million dollars on new equipment. Equipment that, by the way, would they have bought it literally an hour later, would’ve been 30 percent more expensive because of the tariffs on steel. These steel vats you see behind me will quadruple Alementary’s brewing capacity and will open up new possibilities for the business, like creating new jobs and allowing them to sell to other parts of Jersey or to other states.
But now, because of the partial federal shutdown, the doors of the Alcohol Tobacco and Trade Bureau, or TTB, are closed, and the result, is that nearly a million dollars in equipment are now sitting idle in this warehouse waiting on the government to issue the permits Mike and Blake need. TTB is processing zero permits during the shutdown. While they wait, Mike and Blake still have to pay rent and pay interest on the loan to cover their new equipment. It’s costing them profits and causing them headaches. Government is supposed to provide the ingredients for the private sector to grow and prosper – not get in the way of success. It’s time to end the shutdown and reopen the government.
As you all know, several federal departments have been shut down since midnight, the morning of December 2nd, just before Christmas. What’s outrageous is that we had a bipartisan deal: the Senate unanimously passed a bill on December 19th, three days before the shutdown. That deal would have kept the government open until February 8th and we would have avoided this whole mess.
Unfortunately, after calls from extreme obstructionists, that bipartisan deal was blocked. That brought us to this partial government shutdown, leaving no resources to train new air traffic controllers, putting safety at risk, no funding to staff on duty to process small business loans, and no TTB officials to support breweries. Additionally, our national parks are closed or open with limited staffs, the IRS is expected to delay refund checks, the Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration could both reduce the number of inspections they are conducting, leaving our families at risk of food-borne illness.
This is, obviously, no way to govern. We should sit down and work things out, like people do every day in their lives – not shut the government down and walk away. Last week, after the new Congress was sworn in, Republicans and Democrats, including all 12 of New Jersey’s representatives in the House, and many Republicans in the Problem Solvers Caucus, voted to reopen the government and save these services for families and businesses across our state.
That bipartisan package was virtually identical to the deal that the Senate had passed only days earlier. But the Senate has so far refused to pick it up, hamstrung by the same obstructionists, who would rather play political games than protect our security, our skies, our businesses, and our clean air and clean water.
To let the shutdown go on for months or years is to look at business owners like Mike and Blake and tell them to pour their beer out into the ground. That’s why I will vote again this week to reopen the bill that funds the Treasury Department and TTB. Businesses like Alementary should expect more than budget tantrums and shutdowns.
In the meantime, I am committed to working with Democrats and Republicans in the Problem Solvers Caucus and beyond to end this shutdown and help the lifeline of our economy – small businesses get back on track. I’m focused on not just ending the shutdown, but also lowering taxes to help employers like this one grow and make common sense changes to cut out of date regulations. That’s what New Jersey businesses need right now.
The Small Business Administration is charged with one of the most critical tasks in Washington: helping employers start, build, and grow businesses that employ millions by leveraging the capital they need to get off the ground.
The government shutdown closed most of the Small Business Administration. If a brewery or other Jersey business is in the process of applying for a loan from a bank or credit union, they are likely unable to get what they need from the federal government to process a loan. This disruption is having a direct impact on otherwise positive stretch for our business community. In May 2018, the SBA’s New Jersey district office reported that state small business owners were on pace to receive $900 million in SBA-backed loans in 2018.
On top of the Small Business Administration, craft brewers like Alementary are being squeezed during this shutdown because the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is closed. According to their shutdown plan, TTB employees are “not be able to respond to questions or comments submitted via the website until appropriations are enacted.” Normally, the TTB works with businesses on the approval process for labels for drinks and licenses for brewers.
However, during this shutdown, the TTB can’t approve labels for new drinks or process permits. No new breweries can open and existing breweries can’t bring new products to market — that’s the lifeblood of craft brewery. As someone who’s worked in the private sector, I know that delays like this cost profits and jobs. That’s unacceptable. It’s time to end the shutdown.
Alementary is a case study in jobs, development, and growth all being put on hold because of this absurd government shutdown. We are standing in the building where Alementary is prepared to expand its brewing operations. Alementary wants to grow its business, and invest in the North Jersey economy. Even worse, we don’t know how long the backlog at TTB will end up being when we end the shutdown, so it’s impossible to know how many millions of dollars this is – or will – cost us.
This business has nearly $1 million in equipment sitting behind me lying dormant, running up costs as the shutdown drags on, rather than paying for itself. For breweries like Alementary, for craft beer lovers, for the New Jersey economy, for the safety of our citizens, Washington must reopen the government as soon as possible.
This week, I’ll go back to Congress and continue to do everything in my power to reopen the government. Mike and Blake, thank you for everything you’ve done to bring this business to Hackensack. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you.