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Felony Friday: Don’t Forget To Pay Off The ABC Before Distilling

The licensed liquor industry have their friends at the ABC ready and willing to stomp out any enterprising individuals that have their sights set on carving out their own piece of the liquor market. In this country you have to pay to play the liquor game. If you don’t pay off the State, they will come after you. And if they catch you, they’ll crush the life out of you and your business.

Craft-distilleries are growing in popularity nationwide. This phenomenon has the sacred cows in the liquor industry scrambling and trying to figure out how to gain a share of the craft market. If they are unable to gain a share, eliminating the competition is the next best option for the big liquor companies. Their State employed cronies are happy to help.

This brings us to the unfortunate story of Virginian Wine maker Mike Bowles. The Hook details Mr. Bowles run-in with the law as he tried to transition his winery to a craft-distillery.

Long before vineyards became agriculture du jour in Virginia, Mike Bowles planted grapevines in 1977, and he claims he’s Albemarle’s first farm winery operator. Thirty years later, he wanted to be a pioneer again and hop on the craft-distillery trend to make the Italian spirit grappa from his chardonnay grape leftovers. Instead, he’s earned a more dubious distinction as possibly the first person to get busted while applying for a federal distillery license. Under Virginia’s Alcoholic Beverage Control regs, that could cost him his license to make wine at all.

Bowles insists he was trying to comply with the hefty volume of federal and state regulations that date from the end of Prohibition, and says he had no idea the eight-ounce sample bottle sitting on his desk when ABC agents came in would lead to a felony charge that could jeopardize his mom-and-pop business.

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The liquor

Lobby must be a BEAST