Shutdown Touches Valley Wineries, Breweries in Different Ways
Blue Mountain Brewery and Restaurant
It's week two of the government shutdown and the effects are trickling down to some unexpected places.
The fall is a popular time for tourists to visit the Shenandoah Valley, but with the parks closed and other agencies at a halt, some area breweries are taking a hit.
The owners of Afton's Blue Mountain Brewery say, besides fewer tourists coming through at this time, the shutdown also means they can't release new products. And while they say it's nothing catastrophic right now, the effects are starting to drain dollars out of the private sector.
"Beer is business to us," said Blue Mountain brewmaster and co-owner Taylor Smack. "I mean it's leisure too but it's money, it's dollars lost."
Blue Mountain Brewery is ready to introduce Foxy Mama Red Tripel, a unique and quirky label that'll benefit the national MS Society. But once the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau came to a halt, the new brew did, too.
"The experience has been - it's not the biggest deal in the world, but it's annoying and it's been irritating knowing it was something so simple, for a good cause," Smack said.
Smack says the beer is sitting in the tanks, waiting for the shutdown to end. Thanks to an exception, they can begin selling the product in Virginia, but the bulk of their business actually flows outside state lines.
"Our wider markets in North Carolina, D.C., Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York City aren't going to see these beers until the federal government opens back up," Smack said.
This standstill also means new recipes and formulas are on hold, other aspiring brewers cannot set up shop, but most of all - the shutdown taps into the valley's revenue.
"We're a big tourist area and we get a huge flow-down from the mountains and the parks during this time of year, and it's just not going to be there this year," Smack said.
But here's one surprising trend: Barren Ridge Vineyards in Fishersville has seen an upswing in business since the shutdown.
"For right now, we've seen a little bit of additional people coming here mainly because they're vacationers in the valley wanting to visit the national monuments and parks and so forth, and they're closed," said co-owner John Higgs.
Customers streamed in from far and wide - Arizona, Illinois - but Higgs doesn't believe this jump is a good sign.
"But over the long term I don't think it's going to be a positive one for anybody, and much less people coming to the valley, because they're worried. But we don't really know at this point. It's a new world," Higgs said.
We also spoke with Nelson County and Staunton tourism and economic development officials, who say so far things are overall pretty stable - but if this continues, they're anticipating some more serious consequences.
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