If this doesn’t make you shudder, you’ve got eisbock running through your veins. It appears the Volstead Act is alive and well in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. According to an account of Pennsylvania’s Beer Storm Troopers entitled Troopers Raid Popular Bars for Unlicensed Beers, by Don Russell, with Bob Warner, earlier today in the Philadelphia Daily News. What happened was three Philadelphia bars were raided simultaneously, Swat team-style, looking to confiscate — gasp — unlicensed beer brands. The police raid netted a few hundred bottles of beer, much of it lawfully registered. The cops simply couldn’t find many of the beers on their list because the names didn’t match exactly. For example, they took bottles of Duvel because the bottle reads “Duvel Belgian Golden Ale” but the PLCB (Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board) has it listed as “Duvel Beer.”
Perhaps more unsettling is the raids were prompted by “a citizen complaint,” but authorities are refusing to reveal the complainant. Whatever happened to the right to face one’s accuser as guaranteed by the 6th Amendment? [As Andy Crouch, lawyer by day, points out, the 6th Amendment pertains to criminal proceedings, which this was not.] That aside, what possible motive might someone have? Jealous competitor? Rabid neo-prohibitionist? Annoyed neighbor? I’m perplexed.
From the article:
“No actual investigating was done,” [bar owner Leigh] 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.”
“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.
The State Police has given the bar owners until this evening to prove the beer was licensed, in effect making them prove their innocence. So in this case they’re presumed guilty unless they can show otherwise. Am I missing something? Isn’t that supposed to be the other way around? Either way, the confiscated beer will be held for 6-8 months. Given that it’s unlikely it will be stored cool, most of it will likely be ruined in that time, anyway.
No matter how you slice this, it sure seems like we’ve stepped into some alternate universe where McCathyism is going strong, only its target is no longer Communism, but beer.
UPDATE: Jack Curtin has some more information on this incident in the form of an e-mail from bar owner Leigh Maida with additional details.
UPDATE #2: Lew Bryson has some great stuff about the incident on his No PLCB Blog.