Brewery Startup Series #8: Timeline to Opening

How long does it take to open a brewery? I’ve put together resources as a part of our Brewery Startup Series in the past. I thought it was time to revisit the milestones we’ve provided, putting the brewery startup process into a helpful timeline for those thinking about getting started. This is a sketch of what it looks like for most emerging alcoholic beverage businesses, getting at how long it takes to open a brewery:

8+ months out:
-Business Planning: Put together a business plan, consider whether investors are needed. If so, you may need to add to the timeline, to compliantly raise funds and bring those investors onboard.

7-8 months out:
-Business Setup: Form your entity, obtain an Employer Identification Number, Open a Business Bank Account, Fund the Account. This comes first.
-Get an Operating Agreement together that guides decision making, transfers of interests, and sets forth the business and management structure.
-Take steps to clear your brewery name.
-As soon as the entity comes together, file for protection for your selected and cleared brewery name. (Can do this up to 3 years or so before you open, but best to wait until the entity is in place.)

5-6 months out:
-Begin seeking out space, negotiate a lease.
-Once a lease is in place, kick off federal licensing as much as is possible.
-Order equipment.

1-2 months out:
-Tee up the state licensing process as much as possible so that when federal comes in, you’ll be ready to submit.
-Obtain federal approval and submit to state.
-Submit label approvals to TTB or the state, if required.
-Clear and protect all important brand material, such as the brewery logo and flagship beer names.

There are many sub-steps of course, and the scope of the project and commitments of the founders may affect the timeline a good bit, but those are the big milestones. If you have a good idea of your team, a handle on brewing, and a vision of what you want to do, this is a realistic look at how it works for many brewery startups. We’re here to help for those who have questions or are looking to fill in the gaps.

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TTB Permits Online Makeover + Mac Compatibility!

Well, wouldn’t you know it. Just after I found a working solution to using TTB Permits Online and my Mac and wrote about it here, TTB gives Permits Online an unexpected but very welcome update. In a post yesterday, September 2, 2015, TTB announced Permits Online 4.2. Here are the highlights:

1. Permits Online is truly Mac compatible. Finally! As a part of that, you can now upload documents with ease—and without installing Microsoft Silverlight. This is the biggest one for me.

Here are the browser versions it works with on Macs and PCs alike (it may not look perfect in browsers other than Explorer for a little while, but Permits Online is fully functional, they’re just working out cosmetic kinks):

  • Apple Safari 6.0 or higher
  • Google Chrome 42.0 or higher
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 or higher
  • Mozilla Firefox 39.0 or higher

2. TTB Permits Online 4.2 has also pulled the +4 zip code (four zip) requirement for addresses, so you only need to enter in the first five digits (the ones we all use anyway). This will save a bit of time and source of delay for new permittees.

3. There’s an Auto-fill button for addresses (but I’d suggest using it with caution—make sure the premises address is the one you want!).

All in all, I’m really glad to see this update take place. Nice improvements no matter what kind of machine you use, but all of us diehard Mac users have the most to be happy about!

TTB Introduces Permits Online 4.2 with...wait for it...Mac compatibility! I've been hoping something like this was in the works.
TTB Introduces Permits Online 4.2 with…wait for it…Mac compatibility! I’ve been hoping something like this was in the works.


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TTB Permits Online for Mac Users: Working Solution

Having TTB upload errors using Microsoft Silverlight on your Mac? Think I may have a solution for you.

  1. If you can, try OSX Yosemite 10.10.4 and Firefox version 39, a combination I am currently successfully using. Later iterations of both may also work, but so far this is all I’ve tested.
  2. See if you can dust off a really old Mac you may have in your electronics graveyard somewhere—preferably with an older version of Silverlight. I was using an ’06 MacBook Pro in connection with a variety of different browsers. I’ll post the versions if I bring it back into service.
  3. Begrudgingly install Windows on your machine using Bootcamp or a third-party option such as Parallels.

Notes/frustrations vented below.

I’ve been on a Mac at home and at work since 2006. Unfortunately, due to TTB compatibility issues with recent Apple OS X versions, most notably (and unsurprisingly) Microsoft Silverlight and Apple OS X errors, I’d actually been using my trusty old ’06 MacBook Pro to upload documents to all of the TTB applications I handle. It’s the only solution I’d found at the time that worked. (Using Bootcamp or Parallels to install Windows on my Mac just seemed sacrilege—and inconvenient!)

In any event, if you don’t submit a lot of TTB applications, you may not notice that TTB’s Brewer’s Notice submission system does not play nice with newer Mac computers. TTB tells you, but quietly. Here’s the only hint, toward the very end of your application, and it’s in small black font just before a big warning for something else grabs your eyes. When you’re in a hustle to get your TTB application from point A to point B, it can be easy to miss, and cause a ton of headaches.

TTB not playing nice with your Mac? Here's the tiny warning about it, within your TTB commodity application.
TTB not playing nice with your Mac? Here’s the tiny warning about it, within your TTB commodity application.

What happens for those of us using anything newer than Leopard? (In other words, those modern users on OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, 10.7 Lion, 10.8 mountain Lion, 10.9 Mavericks, or 10.10 Yosemite?) In my experience, on my newer machines, is that when you’re using any browser, when you go into the upload document portal, you get taken into a Microsoft Silverlight vortex. You might get prompted to update Silverlight (do so at your own risk). You go upload your important documents, and they appear to upload all the way and show as complete. But, when you click back to the application, there’s nothing there. You might try again, and this time your documents don’t upload all the way, with one or two getting stuck somehow mid-upload. It’s frustrating, to be sure.

However, I’m glad to report a fix that’s working for me right now. In the past, I’ve tried working on every browser imaginable to see if it would work with my current version of Apple OS X. Right now, I’m on OS X Yosemite 10.10.4. And, every now and then, I’ll try it again on my new machine to see if things are compatible, or if I have to bust out my vintage machine. Much to my delight, things seem to be working! You have to skip using Chrome (like about 65% of all of us use). The solution for now is in Firefox (well, at least OSX Yosemite 10.10.4 is working with Firefox version 39).

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Legal Beer Shipping Through US Mail? Maybe Soon.

Legal alcohol shipping? Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California says she’ll introduce a bill that just might make it so. Announced through her Facebook page on July 14, 2015, Congresswoman Speier would like to “tear down the last vestiges of #Prohibition” by introducing a bill that will undoubtedly be unpopular with craft beverage fans across the United States. The bill would make it legal for consumers to ship alcohol through the United States Post Office, “expanding consumer choice and keeping the Post Office solvent in the process,” according to Congresswoman Speier.

For those out of the loop, it’s currently illegal to ship alcohol through the US Mail. It’s also not okay through third-party carriers such as FedEx and UPS, although violating their rules is not as risky as the USPS’s. For example, violators of the United States Post Office alcohol shipping prohibition technically “shall be fined . . . or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.”

Don’t get too excited yet, though. This isn’t the first time a bill like this has been introduced. However, it’ll be the first time such a bill has been introduced (if it indeed is) on new Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan’s watch. Previous Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe, however, publicly supported previous steps to open up alcohol shipment. Indeed, he even had ideas about making shipping easier, including introducing flat-rate boxes designed to ship bottles.

For the curious, the ban on shipping alcohol through the United States Postal Service stems back to 18 U.S.C. § 1716, a federal statute that came on the books back in 1909. The statute provides that “[a]ll spiritous, vinous, malted, fermented, or other intoxicating liquors of any kind are nonmailable and shall not be deposited in or carried through the mails.” Pretty straightforward.

Opening up beer and wine shipping through US Mail won’t be without its administrative challenges, but former Postmaster General Donahoe thought they were surmountable. For example, there are issues with shipping out of and into various states (some states allow it, some do not), and further issues with preventing delivery to those underage.

With interest in craft beverages at an all-time high, this may just be the time for a bill like this to make it through. Keep in mind, however, that secondary markets, from a consumer-to-consumer sales perspective, would still be illegal—and bartering or trading could still be deemed a sale of alcohol, prohibited under many state laws. Shipping of gifts back and forth to your buddies in different parts of the United States, however, may pass muster. So, perhaps it’s a good time to warm back up to your old college friends who may be scattered about the US, and living nearby your favorite hard-to-find source. We’ll keep you posted.

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Introducing: Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board!

And just like that the Washington State Liquor Control Board has become the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. Here’s Reiser Legal’s warm welcome to the agency we know and love, under a fresh new moniker. I suppose it’s only fair, given the rise of the cannabis industry—and in this the Evergreen State, at that. Maybe few have noticed and few will ultimately care. But, I like the new name! And, mostly, I’m just glad I can still affectionately think of them as the LCB (because LMB just wouldn’t have that same authoritative ring).

For those wondering when the change happened, it looks like the confetti fell on July 24, 2015, when a number of LCB-related bills went into effect after this last legislative session. Turns out, a section of the Cannabis Patient Protection Act (Senate Bill 5052) which we hadn’t been tracking was what made the change (which, LCB reports, is the first change to the name since the Liquor Control Board was established by the Steele Act back on January 23, 1934).

Here’s a header from their homepage taken just now:

Introducing, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board!
Introducing, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board!

And, here’s an old snap from April or so, thanks to the Wayback Machine:


Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 3.38.27 PM






Nothing but hard-hitting news here on the Brewery Law Blog!

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