Whether you are starting a new brewery, distillery, winery, or tobacco farm, getting a federal permit from the Alcohol & Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau is a make-or-break process. Everyone knows that getting a federal permit from TTB is required before you start, few understand how long it can take to get permit approval.
With the recent surge in mico-breweries and craft-distilleries, federal permit applications have flooded into the TTB’s National Revenue Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. And, although the number of new permits filed has increased, TTB has not comparatively increased its workforce. This means longer waiting times for everyone.
How long exactly? Well, it’s tough to judge for certain, but TTB provides average wait times online updated on a monthly basis:
As you can see, the average approval waiting time for a new distillery (from submission of an application until a permit is granted) is 125 days.
What can you do to reduce your potential wait time? First and foremost, ensure that your application is accurate upon submission. The best way to do this is to retain a consultant. There are several competent consultants in the industry, including many retired TTB employees who approved permit applications for the bulk of their careers.
Equally as important, make sure you allow enough time for permit approval before you plan to start your business. Time and time again a budding brewery, winery, or distillery has their entire business ready for operation but is waiting for permit approval.
Lastly, be sure to file your permit application using Permits Online (or “PONL” as it’s called by TTB personnel). It’s not that PONL is necessarily better than applying the old fashioned way, but TTB is heavily promoting it as it makes their job easier. Consequently, TTB creates a special rule for PONL users: If your application contains errors on PONL, you are notified and told to correct them, BUT you get to keep your place in line. This is critical. If you file for a permit through a traditional paper application, and TTB finds errors, your permit is returned to you with instruction to correct and you have to “get to the back of the line” when you fix the errors and reapply. This can further lead to unnecessarily long waiting times.