Skip to comments.(PA) Troopers raid popular bars for unlicensed beers (and instead confiscate licensed ones)
Posted on 03/08/2010 11:00:41 AM PST by bamahead
IT WAS ELIOT NESS and the Untouchables, as played by the Keystone Kops.
More than a dozen armed State Police officers conducted simultaneous raids last week on three popular Philadelphia bars known for their wide beer selections. The cops confiscated hundreds of bottles of expensive ales and lagers, now in State Police custody at an undisclosed location.
The alleged offense: Although the bar owners had bought the beer legally from licensed Pennsylvania distributors and had paid all the necessary taxes, the police claimed that nobody had registered the precise names of the beers with the state Liquor Control Board - a process that requires the brewers or their importers to pay a $75 registration fee for each product they want to sell in Pennsylvania.
Based on a complaint from someone the State Police refuse to identify, three teams of officers converged last Thursday on the three bars, run by Leigh Maida and her husband, Brendan Hartranft. Checking their inventories against the state's official list of more than 2,800 brands, the cops seized four kegs and 317 bottles, totaling 60.9 gallons of beer, according to police calculations.
In fact, according to Maida, more than half the beer removed by the State Police was properly registered - but the cops couldn't find it on their lists because of "clerical errors" or "blatant ineptitude" between the police and the Liquor Control Board, with whom the officers were conferring by telephone.
She estimated the total value of the confiscated stock at $7,200, representing about 20 brands, some of which go by multiple names.
For instance, the cops grabbed Monk's Cafe Sour Flemish Red Ale.
The beer has been sold throughout the state at dozens of restaurants and distributors for the last seven years. The brand appears on the state's online list as "Monk's Café Ale." It's on tap seven days a week at the Center City bar after which it was named: Monk's Cafe, at 16th and Spruce streets.
But that wasn't enough to keep the State Police from confiscating 20 bottles and three kegs of the supposedly illegal ale at the three bars run by Maida and Hartranft - Resurrection Ale House, at 2425 Grays Ferry Ave.; Local 44, at 44th and Spruce streets, in West Philadelphia; and Memphis Taproom, 2331 E. Cumberland St., Port Richmond.
Maida said that the State Police also confiscated bottles of Duvel, a popular ale imported from Belgium that is widely advertised and available in at least 200 bars throughout the city and suburbs. The beer appears on the PLCB list as "Duvel Beer," while its label reads "Duvel Belgian Golden Ale."
"No actual investigating was done," Maida said in an e-mail to the Daily News. "The police sent a shoddily typed list to the PLCB, some drone fed it into the machine verbatim and returned what came back, without . . . even trying to offer us the benefit of the doubt by double-checking on some of the so-called unregistered beers."
While acknowledging that it appears that some of the confiscated brands had not been properly registered, Maida said that about half appeared on the state's registration list in some form.
"My main beef with this whole convoluted situation is that the PLCB is the sole regulator of a set of products that they do not even know the names of," she said.
State Police Sgt. William N. La Torre, commanding officer of the Philadelphia office of the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, said that he was not aware of any beers that had been mistakenly confiscated.
La Torre said that the beer would be kept in a secured location, as evidence, until the case is resolved, probably in six to eight months. If an administrative-law judge finds that the bars possessed unregistered brands, the State Police typically would seek a forfeiture order to destroy the beer, he said. Depending on the temperature of the storage location, some of the beer will likely turn sour in that period.
Maida said that the couple's attorney had told them that they have until 6 p.m. tonight to compile evidence to prove that the confiscated beer is properly registered.
"The onus is on us to prove our innocence," she said.
She added: "It's McCarthy-like. They swarm in here and confiscate this product because they don't know what the product is."
La Torre noted that Resurrection had been warned last year when it served an unregistered beer from Maryland - Resurrection Ale, made by Brewer's Art, in Baltimore. Maida acknowledged that violation - the beer had been a gift in honor of their new business, she said, but the resulting citation made the couple extra-careful about compliance with the Liquor Board's rules, she said.
La Torre said that the investigation was sparked by "a citizen complaint."
"It doesn't matter where the complaint is coming from," he said. "If there is merit to the complaint, we have to follow through with it. . . . We received a complaint regarding the licensee bringing in unregistered beers and we confirmed with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board that certain brands were not registered."
Francesca Chapman, a PLCB spokeswoman, said that the registration requirement helps the state assure payment of state beer taxes and helps prosecutors identify alcoholic beverages in drunk-driving cases or any other type of prosecution.
Industry sources complain that brand registration is typical of the onerous regulations that make selling beer in Pennsylvania difficult. For example, while it is the responsibility of the brewer or importer to submit the necessary paperwork and registration fee, it is the tavern or restaurant licensee who may be liable for selling unregistered brands, they said.
Registration is further complicated by the growth of under-the-radar one-offs: unique, limited-production, highly sought-after draft beers that appear briefly - perhaps as quickly as an hour - on tavern taps. While they pay the necessary state and federal taxes, breweries sometimes do not bother to register the brands because they are produced in extremely small amounts.
Among the brands that the State Police reportedly sought during its raid was Pliny the Younger, recently named the No. 1 beer in the world by Beer Advocate, a popular online beer-rating site. The ale is made once a year by Russian River Brewing, in California.
Last month, about a dozen small kegs of the beer arrived in Philadelphia amid much hoopla. Several taverns, including the three operated by Maida and Hartranft, advertised specials for as much as $25 a glass.
In most cases, the kegs kicked in less than an hour.
Although it had been registered for sale in the past, Pliny the Younger currently does not appear on the state's list of registered brands.
In an e-mail to the Daily News, Russian River owner Vinnie Cilurzo wrote: "It was a simple mistake on our part that we forgot to register some brands with the state of PA. We are a small mom and pop brewery and every once in a while something slips through the cracks."
But apparently not just small breweries have failed to register brands. Heineken-owned Hacker-Pschorr, one of the largest breweries in Munich, does not appear on Pennsylvania's registration list, though it is widely sold throughout the state.
Laying their lives on the line every single day. ;-)
Guess abbreviations don't count?
Pennsylvania, of course. One would expect no different.
Procedural crime. Meanwhile they let the crackhouses down the road in any direction go undisturbed.
The bar owners won't get violent as a crack addict or dope dealer might. And they have "$7,000" in beer so they should be good for upwards of $10,000 in revenue ticket fines.
Sometime the badge just belongs to the biggest gang in town.
Oh, the muster room was hoppin after this operation! Yee-haw!
At least they went home to their families that night.
Maybe they can use the city morgue.
Soon they'll be grabbing everything named "Bud" because the Board has it as "Budweiser." (That whirring sound you are hearing is Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams, et al, spinning in their graves.)
People forget it was the IRS that took down the bootleggers, damn revenuers.
If my family started their own still to make ethanol for runnign thier vehicles, how long before the Revenuers would show up to cart them all to jail?
At least it’s not like Alabama where you have to buy alcohol from the STATE!................
Beer ping for your consideration
That has NOTHING to do with Joe McCarthy or Communist "witchhunts" (which found REAL Communists).
How about Gore-like? Seizing all filament lightbulbs and low flow toilets even though it won't aid the climate one bit.
The PCLB is a giant scam.. place for kickbacks and overpaid government jobs.
From the title, I thought this was the Palestinian Authority.
And people think if pot is legalized that this sort of thing won’t happen to people growing pot at home.
Never if you gave Obama credit for you having green jobs.
Totally absurd. Big Government (at all levels) is cumulatively destroying this nation. Every year more taxes and regulations.
Such is our legal system today.
This is in Philly. They must have forgotten the monthly kickback.
This just in...”Big Beer Bust at the Chiefs house this weekend. Beer will be provided”
>> Never if you gave Obama credit for you having green jobs. <<
By the time Obama is done with this country the cities will be in ruin, 100+ million will be dead, and the only fuel that will be left to power tractors and farm equipment WILL come from rural stills.
Mark My Words, I sense this possibility becomming more and more a reality.
The bar owners sound wee-weed up, to put it in Obamaese.
>> People put up with all kinds of fees and restrictions on their intoxicants out of fear big brother will take them all away again if they don’t behave . You are expected to be grateful . <<
Be greatful to the allmightly big brother government for the few paltry scraps of freedom they give back to you.
Thank goodness someone did something about unregistered
something, I might have drunk one and become unregular
and who knows where THAT might lead.
A low to medium ping list aimed at all of us who, well, love our beer
FReepmail rzeznikj at stout or GOP_Raider to be added or struck from the list
Actually, in PA, you do (at least for liquor). All liquor in Pennsylvania is sold through state-owned Wine & Spirits stores. In fact, the Pennsylvania Wine & Spirits store is the largest purchaser of wine and liquor in the United States, and second largest in the world.
“Sometime the badge just belongs to the biggest gang in town.”
In a lot of places, the police have let themselves become tax collectors with guns.
the laws that were used at the Salem Witch Burning Trials were easier to interpret and less arcane than Pennsylvania liquor laws.
(on the plus side, I do believe that the name Falstaff is still registered with the PA LCB...)
A citizen who is, per-chance, a Teamster?
Competing bar perhaps.
“Based on a complaint from someone the State Police refuse to identify.”
No doubt one of their competitors.
Look where the bars are located. Find a donk connected person who owns a bar that competes with them. There’s your “informer.”
Just more donk fascism, plain as day...
Pennsylvania’s alcohol control laws are simply ridiculous.
The government did not get rid of the Mafia, they just replaced it with themselves.
If that is their main worry, they are in the WRONG line of work.
Nobody FORCES them to become police officers.
They are nothing more, and nothing less than FELLOW CITIZENS, entrusted with the responsibility of enforcing the law.
If this prospect frightens them, they should go into a different line of work.
Yes, they went home to their families, after STEALING ~$7000 worth of another private citizen's property, over a procedural error on THEIR part. But at least they were 'safe'.
I guess from now on you’ll take that little “Union Made” symbol on the can seriously....
I can’t believe people put up with this procedural crap, from Big Brother!
About as long as it would take a dozen or so of 'em to "Kevlar up", don their "Raid Jackets", load their guns, and convoy to your house.
Do you still have to buy a license to buy/consume beer and other alcohol?..............
Obama now owns Anheiseur Busch? Who new?!!!
Just imagine what Sam Adams is doing!
Never heard of that one, that must LONG predate any drinking I've done in PA :)
Amendment VI. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of Counsel for his defence.
The informer is 'bearing witness' to the act that is resulting in criminal prosecution [or is the police seizure/arrest not part of prosecution? It has to be that apprehension _is_ part of the prosecution.]; that the 'witness' against them is not [yet] in a court of law is irrelevant.