This month, Portlanders Jon Poteet and Matthew McLain planned to open Shine Distillery and Grill, a combination distillery and restaurant, on the corner of North Williams Avenue and Northeast Skidmore Street.
They hired employees, obtained city permits and ordered custom-made distillery equipment. They perfected the recipes for single malt whiskey and dry gin.
But then the federal government shut down.
That means Poteet and McLain, majority owner and master distiller, respectively, can't get federal approval for new liquor labels or access small-business loan funds.
"It's killing us," McLain says. "I'm 50 years old and I've never written my state representatives, but all I can do is say 'Please do whatever you can to get the government to open again.'"
McLain says he and Poteet will have invested more than $2 million in Shine, the city's first restaurant/distillery hybrid, by the time it is completed. The two just started hiring employees, including a general manager, who quit another job to move to Portland.
Now, McLain says, a dozen liquor formulas he submitted to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau for approval are on hold. Not only that, but the formulas will need a second TTB label approval before Shine can start selling and distributing them. Loans that the business depends on are also stalled while the Small Business Administration is shutdown.
"Every day that the government is shutdown could cost us two to three weeks," McLain says. "When all the federal workers to go back to TTB, we won't have been the only ones submitting formulas and labels. The backlog alone could be up to six months."
So far, the shutdown has imperiled the half a million dollars already invested in Shine. It could set back the restaurant's opening date anywhere from three months to a year.
McLain says plans for the distillery/restaurant have been 12 years in the making. He and Poteet hauled wood out of the space to refurbish into tables, built a deck for a garden and installed an eight-foot-tall glass wall behind the bar so that patrons can view the distilling process while drinking.
Because home distilling can be highly flammable, McLain says, "the City of Portland made us jump through every hoop in the world to get permits and we went above and beyond."
He now blames President Trump for what he says is one of the most ludicrous political tactics he's ever seen.
"This man is making a mockery of our country," McLain says, "and displaying every trait that is anti-America."