Tuesday, March 9, 2010

State Rep John Taylor: "a ridiculous use of enforcement manpower"

Last Thursday's raid on three Philly bars -- all owned by the same couple -- for "unregistered beer brands" has caught fire in the media. Hundreds of comments are swamping stories on the Daily News website, stories like the one today where Rep. John Taylor (whose 177th District is home to the Memphis Taproom, one of the bars raided) blasted the raids.

THE TOP Republican on the House Liquor Control Committee said yesterday that the State Police engaged in "a ridiculous use of enforcement manpower" last week when more than a dozen officers staged raids on three Philadelphia bars, suspected of selling beers not registered in Pennsylvania.
"I don't know why they would use that many people to track down an issue like this that could have been handled with a routine inspection," said state Rep. John Taylor, whose legislative district includes one of the bars, the Memphis Taproom, in Port Richmond.
Taylor puts his finger right on the problem. Here's what I said in a comment on Andy Crouch's Beerscribe blog:
Why is a “raid” necessary? Here’s an option: instead of five armed cops walking in on a lunch crowd and seizing beers, how about one bureaucrat comes by with a clipboard to see if unregistered beers are on the premises? If any resistance is offered, backup is a phone call away, and resistance won’t look good on the complaint. Find the unregistered beers and — here’s another thought — get the wholesaler on the line and arrange for payment of the fee and registration on the spot. Done, under the radar, no business disruption, the beer’s registered, the state’s happy, and it costs so much less than sending five cops (and looking like idiots in the press).
I remember having this same thought about ten years ago when I went to my first State College Micro Expo beer festival (a festival that was largely regulated to death, unfortunately). As I arrived about half an hour before the fest started, one of the fest organizers was being lectured -- hectored, really -- by a red-faced PLCB enforcement agent about unregistered beers at the festival. "There are unregistered beers at this festival," he shouted, "and they will not be served, or I will shut this thing down!" The organizer took care of it -- a pain in the ass, but what are you going to do? -- and later told me that the PLCB had first contacted him about the problem less than two days before.

And I thought to myself then...wouldn't it have been better all-round if instead of getting up in the guy's face like that, the PLCB agent had instead said, I understand there are some beers coming to the fest that are unregistered. Let me help you with the paperwork, you cut me a check, and we'll get that all squared away in time for the fest? No stress, no screaming, and the state...has revenue. Wow. Would that make sense? What am I missing?

Oh, and in case you were wondering? The PLCB went after the unregistered brands at the fest...because of an anonymous tip. Best guesses were that it was a local distributor (Zeno's certainly wouldn't have done it: they were making money hand-over-fist that day selling beer to happy geeks). Kinda makes you think that this "anonymous tip" thing should go away too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So, why such a big deal now? PA citizens have been dealing with this crap forever, without getting any publicity or media coverage. Many have been pulled over by armed officers as they have been (right or wrong) going to other states for a bottle of wine or a six-pack to enjoy while watching the birds or steelers. The effort and money expended in the recent raid is nowhere near the manpower used enforcing the border crossings caused by ridiculous PA laws. Yes, the raid may have been ridiculous, but I think it's small potatoes compared to everyday life for the average Joe Case in PA.

Why do you have to hunt through the state police site to find that roughly 40% of compliance checks at distributors have failed in '08-09. If distributors sold to 751 minors in these checks, imagine how many sales really occurred. Why aren't politicians and the media outraged for all citizens?

Keep up the battle, Lew.