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Monday, September 25, 2006

Regulators: Criminal Charities Serving Beer and Wine

If you believe as Thomas Jefferson did that ""The government is best which governs least," the actions of alcohol regulators in two states will just drive you up the wall.

Case #1: The California Alcoholic Beverage Control Board is holding a hearing on Tuesday regarding the actions of Eagle Eye Wine, Elkhorn Peak Cellars and StoneFly Vineyard. The alleged violation? Pouring donated wine at charity events. The winery industry is one of the most generous among corporate America in its support of non-profit organizations. The action by the California ABC could jeopardize fundraisers for a great many charities.

According to news reports, some winery licenses in California allow the companies to donate wine and pour at events. Many smaller wineries hold so-called Class 2 permits that do not allow this activity. These Napa wineries are being singled out and the result could have a chilling influence others who would like to help worthy organizations.

The ABC says it is acting after receiving a complaint involving the three wineries. It would indeed be unfortunate if the complaint came from another winery, but I think the source is someone outside the industry. While these wineries will now have to miss the promotional opportunity of the tasting events, the causes served by the charities would ultimately suffer the most through lost revenue.

Case #2: Four Pennsylvania Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement officers raided a fundraiser for a 13-year-old suffering from cystic fibrosis at Holy Child Grove in Sheatown this past weekend. The crime? The organizers were selling beer to attendees at the fundraiser without a permit. The officials carted away the offending kegs of beer.

According to news reports, organizers asked for donations for cystic fibrosis research in exchange for beer. Officers said they responded to the event after a complaint by a neighbor. Several people attending the event who have relatives suffering from the disease were angry and in tears after the raid.

It is amazing that law abiding citizens are turned into criminals because they happen to be serving beer or wine as part of fundraising efforts for legitimate charities that are trying to address the needs of less fortunate people. The cases in California and Pennsylvania are just the two most recent reminders that alcohol regulators can get out of control and there are people inside and outside of government who really do want to limit -- or even eliminate -- our legal rights to have an adult beverage.

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