Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Beer Raids Part II: dropping the big one

Just saw this on Don Russell's Beer Radar blog. The BLCE raided Origlio Beverage last night. Some points from Don's post:
The Bureau of Liquor Enforcement agents arrived about 7 p.m. last night and conducted a search of the warehouse, specifically looking for Origlio’s share of brands they’d confiscated from the bars last week. This includes: Duvel, Monk’s Cafe Sour Flemish Ale, Hacker-Pschorr and Russian River Supplication.
They reportedly confiscated only the Supplication because they would’ve needed a tractor trailer for the rest. They ordered Origlio not to distribute any of the other brands.
I'm guessing they didn't bring a tractor trailer because they had no freakin' clue how big these brands are in this market.

Here's my question. If the taxes on these beers were paid -- and I have no doubt whatsoever they were -- is the BLCE really holding up thousands and thousands of dollars worth of beer, crimping the business of hundreds of Philadelphia bars, restaurants, and distributors, putting jobs at jeopardy...all over a piddling $600 in registration fees? (That's $75 each for Duvel, Monk's Sour, Supplication, and 5 H-P brands listed on Origlio's website.) Are you shitting me?

Another quote from Don, because he said it just fine:
What we’re witnessing isn’t just bureaucratic incompetence or the result of outdated laws. This is an act of unrepentant arrogance. As one local restaurant operator remarked of the BLE, “They don’t answer to anybody. They’re running amok.”
What have I told you time after time? It's the arrogance of this agency that is simply jaw-dropping.
I'm going to have to quote Buddy "I married a PLCB manager" Hobart to express what I feel about this new initiative. "What I say to the skeptical," said Buddy Hobart, president of Solutions 21, "to those of us in the world who believe we've arrived and don't need to improve: Look up the word arrogant in the dictionary." When you find that page, I believe you'll find the PLCB logo next to that definition
They do, however, have some shame. The PLCB has an auto-response going now for e-mails about the raids in which they deny any responsibility. Here's what it says:
This is in response to your inquiry regarding the recent raids of three Philadelphia-area bars, conducted by the Pennsylvania State Police, Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement ("BLCE"), in which the PSP, BLCE apparently confiscated beers that may or may not have been properly registered for sale in Pennsylvania.
The raids in question were conducted by the PSP, BLCE, not the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board ("Board"). The officers involved are employed by the PSP,BLCE and not the Board. The Board and the BLCE are two distinct agencies.  Therefore, your inquires should be directed to the PSP, BLCE Harrisburg Headquarters. Their contact number is 717-540-7410.
As always, should you become a subject of ridicule or public outrage, the Chairman will disavow any knowledge of your actions. I always knew the PLCB was arrogant. I didn't know they were also gutless buck-passers, but it shouldn't surprise me. The BLCE is funded by the PLCB, they exist to enforce the PLCB's regulations.

As I keep saying, the thing to do...is write your legislator. Tell them things have gone too far. The PLCB, the BLCE, it doesn't matter which; they're out of control. It's time to break them, to bring them to heel. Rewrite the Code. People keep telling me it can't be done. I don't see any other thing to do.


Carolyn said...

Lew, thanks for sharing this news so quickly. I wrote to my legislators, and the PLCB consumer division, earlier this evening to express my concerns. I'm glad I didn't do it after reading this. It just makes me angrier and angrier... Thanks for never throwing in the towel and keeping us all informed.

John M. said...

Lew, there isn't much more to say, as I think your blog pretty much says it all. Obviously, the PLCB has not given a lot of thought as to what the probable effect these continued raids are likely to have on local business (and the impression I get is they probably couldn't care less even if they thought about it). Why they think conducting these raids is a more efficient way to enforce compliance of the registration laws is anyone's gusss (as opposed to a quiet word about the problem in person or over the phone).

In any event, the only hope I have is that their continued mismanagement (other descriptiions come to mind, but let's be kind) of this situation will eventually lead to some significant changes in the State Liquor Laws and, perhaps even the eventual elimination of the PLCB and their henchmen.

Based on what I've seen so far, if their jobs are ever eliminated, I think most of the PLCB members could just barely handle a job flipping burgers at McDonalds.

fhnsab said...

just curious, why was Supplication confiscated? as far as i can tell from the PLCB website, it is in fact registered

Lew Bryson said...

Supplication is listed today. Last week, it wasn't. All part of the problem.

John M. said...

If some of these beers that were confiscated in the raid (at least the one's that really hadn't been properly registered) are registered retroactively, does that mean we can expect they will be returned to their owners (beer bars, retail outlets, restaurants and distributors, as the case may be)? Or is the fact they weren't properly registered at the time of the raid the only thing that matters in this case, and they remain illegal contraband?

Naturally, I don't expect any sort of reasonable approach when it comes to the behavior of PLCB, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if they would just hold onto them forever (despite what was said initially about holding onto them only until some time after a presiding ALJ makes a ruling).