Stop me if you've heard this one already.
(Actually, we hear it all the time. The general "abuse of power" pattern of harassment is consistent; it's just this latest specific instance that differs)
On Friday evening, the Floyd County Health Department plucked exceedingly shaky precedent out of thin statutory air and dispatched an embarrassed newbie shop floor worker to cite NABC, River City Winery and Irish Exit for pouring draft beer and wine at the Bicentennial Park concert.
Of course, the state of Indiana's required Alcohol and Tobacco Commission permit, which NABC procured, was posted ... as it should be, and as it always is, because the ATC has statutory control over beer and wine pours.
Pouring beer from kegs into plastic cups without a temporary FOOD serving permit, like those required for food preparation outside a licensed kitchen.
I wouldn't have been any more surprised if an alien space ship had landed next to our draft truck. For the very first time in 30 years in the beer business, our county's health authorities suddenly contend that beer is food ... and whether or not this is true, there is no precedent at all for local food regulators meddling in it.
As former Brewers of Indiana Guild president Ted Miller wrote on Twitter:
"You see, Floyd County Health Dept, you are here to protect us from pathogens. The same pathogens that can't thrive in BEER."
As we await statutory justification (there is something explicit written somewhere, right?), it is amusing to contemplate that given the grave level of danger to public health posed by draft beer and bottled wine, nothing whatever was said about our suspending operations.
Rather, the message was crystal clear: We were being cited and fined for the critical violation of failure to tithe to a county bureaucracy's protection racket -- as opposed to threatening public health, because we were weren't, and the moral of this story is that given Floyd County government's inability (read: spineless unwillingness) to tax the all the people so as to protect the public from itself, the Health Department has contrived a whole new revenue enhancement scheme.
Next stop, bucket-begging at county road intersections (not city streets; we banned buckets).
Does anyone really think it's a coincidence that this first instance of draft-beer-as-food scanning came at a big-ticket city event, while other events this weekend were not controlled?
Our health department is laying claim to a bit of regulatory turf never before seized. Other areas of government regulate beer and wine, not health departments, and not food and drug administrators. I don't contest the health department's proper statutory domain when it comes to meat temperature or salmonella prevention, although local politicians may wish to reconsider expanding the health department's ever-widening reach lest we arrive at a point of not being able to eat a tomato from our own garden patch without an annual permit.
But beer from a keg?
I call "bullshit."
Come to think of it, NABC was inspected yesterday at Fishers on Tap (Indianapolis area). The Alcohol and Tobacco Commission officers checked Blake's serving permit. And the Hamilton County Health Department? It was there, too -- looking at smokers, grills, warmers and food trucks, just as it should be doing.
Time to turn this one over to the lawyers, I guess. What an effing zoo, this county.