09 March 2010

PA's "Prohibition Hangover"

KegWorks | Liz | $7,200 of "Illegal" Beer Confiscated By State Troopers in Philly

I’ve jokingly talked about Pennsylvania having a "Prohibition hangover" before but the latest news out of Philly is downright ridiculous. More than a dozen armed State Troopers raided three popular Philadelphia bars known for their wide beer selections last week. Police confiscated hundreds of bottles of expensive lagers and ales and apparently they’re still in their custody, being held at an undisclosed location.

Why you ask? Well basically Pennsylvania needs to get a grip.

Even though the bar owners legally purchased the beer from licensed Pennsylvania distributors and paid taxes on them, the police claim that no one had registered the precise names of the beers with the state Liquor Control Board. According to the authorities, brewers or their importers are required to pay a $75 registration fee for each product they sell in Pennsylvania.

The raids were conducted after a complaint from someone the State Police refuse to identify. Leigh Maida and her husband Brendan Hartranft operate all three of the bars targeted. After checking their inventory against the state’s official list of registered beers (which contains more than 2,800 brands) the officers seized four kegs and 317 bottles. Police calculations indicate that they now possess about 60.9 gallons of beer with an estimated value of $7,200.

Maida claims that more than half of the beer taken was actually properly registered but the cops couldn’t find it on their lists because of "clerical errors" and "blatant ineptitude" between the police and Liquor Control Board (with whom he officers were deliberating with via phone.)

Case in point; Monk’s Café Sour Flemish Red Ale. The beer has been sold across PA at dozens of restaurants and distributors for more than seven years. The brand appears on the state’s online list as "Monk’s Café Ale" and because the names did’’t match up, troopers seized 20 bottles and three kegs of the "illegal" ale from the three bars.
What thuggery.  PA really needs to grow up. If you've ever tried to buy alcohol in Pennsylvania you understand why I don't need to elaborate on that.  (I'm actually planning on driving the wine and spirits for my rehearsal dinner up from DC so I don't have to buy it in Penn.  When DC of all places is less bureaucratic and more consumer friendly than you it's time to re-evaluate your priorities.)

What I want to know about this case specifically is: (1) Who has it out for the couple that owns this bar, and why is the police acting as their cat's paw in this case? That reeks of bootleggers and baptists. (2) How is the bar supposed to know whether the products they have legally bought from a distributor have had a nominal fee paid by the producer? Why is it the customer's responsibility to verify that? Why punish them?

PS Other recent bootleggers-and-baptists stories: video rental stores in Indiana tried to get the county prosecutor to harass competitor RedBox; chip shops in GB want the British government to bother fast food outlets more than them, instead of leaving both groups alone.

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