Outfitted with a pair of binoculars, an ALE agent parked across Haywood Road from Altamont Brewing at about 2:30 a.m. the morning of Feb. 18 (a Wednesday) and watched as the brewery’s bartender cleaned up and drank what was later determined to be Altamont’s porter.
The ALE agent advised the bartender that it was against state law to drink while working. The agent then sent a violation report (Altamont_Brewing_violation_report_2015) to the ABC Commission for possible action. The issue was taken up at the commission’s meeting on July 15 in Raleigh.
The commission ratified what’s known as an “offer in compromise” and gave the business until Aug. 7 to pay a $1,500 fine or begin serving a suspension of its ABC permits beginning Aug. 14. An offer in compromise (Altamont_Brewing_offer_in_compromise_2015) is an agreement where the permit holder admits that the stated violation occurred and agrees to the penalty (fine/suspension) that the commission requires, according to a commission spokeswoman.
The action is the latest example of stepped up enforcement this year on the part of N.C. ALE officers working for Special Agent in Charge Stacy J. Cox in ALE’s Asheville office. The office has approximately five agents who work a 16-county area in Western North Carolina and enforce the state’s alcohol laws.
Agents in Cox’s office have also taken the following high-profile action this year:
-Race to the Taps: In early spring, N.C. ALE agents had discussions with nine local breweries about potential violations of alcohol law governing cooperative advertising around the much advertised Race to the Taps running series. Produced by the Asheville Radio Group and Kick It Events, the running series started and ended at Highland Brewing, Asheville Pizza and Brewing on Coxe Avenue and Merrimon Avenue, Pisgah Brewing, Catwaba Brewing, Oskar Blues Brewery and Sierra Nevada Brewing, Green Man Brewery, Twin Leaf Brewery and Wicked Weed Brewing. After discussions with the breweries and their attorneys, no warnings were issued.
-Beer City Festival: On May 30, five N.C. ALE agents descended on the annual Beer City Festival on Pack Square Park in downtown. The agents alleged numerous violations of state alcohol law, including brewery owners and employees drinking beer and then serving beer to festival attendees. ALE agents also alleged witnessing drug use by attendees (two people were charged with smoking marijuana at the event) and seeing intoxicated alcohol permit-holders. Nearly two months after Beer City, ALE agents wrote 10 violation reports, which they submitted to the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission for possible action. (The ALE noted that it could have made written criminal violations that would be handled by state courts and not the ABC Commission, but decided to submit only the ABC violations.) That action could have potentially serious consequences, ranging from a simple written notice to a fine, a suspension or a revocation of an ABC-issued permit. The 10 breweries cited were: Oskar Blues, Southern Appalachian Brewery, Boojum Brewing Company, Foothills Brewing, Green Man Brewing, Oyster House Brewing, Pisgah Brewing, Nantahala Brewing, Altamont Brewing and Highland Brewing.
-Burning Can Festival: On July 17, N.C. ALE agents notified organizers of the Oskar Blues Burning Can beer festival near Brevard that 16 breweries invited to participate didn’t have the proper permits to serve alcohol. The notification came just hours before the event was set to start. Oskar Blues officials decided to refund all ticket-holders their money and turn their event into a free beer festival, which included outdoor activities like mountain biking and river paddling, as well as top musical entertainment.
On July 10, Western North Carolina craft brewery owners and their representatives met with Cox and representatives of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (Chief Administrator Bob Hamilton and Chief Legal Counsel Renee Cowick), as well as two attorneys from the Asheville office Ward and Smith (Derek Allen and Hayley Wells). About 60 people in all gathered at the Mill Room to meet and talk about the N.C. ALE enforcement actions. The meeting lasted about three and a half hours. Allen described the gathering as an “unprecedented” meeting of the brewery industry and leaders with ALE and ABC.
Is there a list somewhere of the laws we don’t want enforced? All this outrage over ALE *doing its job* by enforcing the law. If you want the laws changed, work with your legislators to accomplish that; but in the meantime, follow the existing law. Since whichever powers-that-be made the decision to market our area as Alcohol City USA, why is anyone surprised that that has drawn increased attention from the ALE? And since you know that increased attention is likely, just follow the rules. If you choose not to do so, and you get caught, just take your licks and move on without whining about it.
ALE or Peeping Tom? And was the agent’s name in fact Tom?
A colossal waste of public resources. Non ABC states work without the expense of ALE ABC law enforcement and administration, why not privatize . North Carolina could benefit from these funds in other areas, education, clean energy anything except funding these gun toting boy scouts
Good thing the agent used binoculars from across the street instead of coming inside and getting beat up. Like at the Beirgarden
That ALE agent must have been mighty cold, too. The hi/low for February 18 was 33/12. Me, I would have just ~loved~ to sit out in the car for an hour when its in the teens.
I suggest you email our elected officials and voice your concerns!
Honorable Senator Apodaca,
I’d like to voice my concern as a citizen and a constituent; I write on my behalf as well as over 20 people in our community that I’ve spoken to about this. The concern is a blatantly aggressive campaign against one of the greatest driving forces w/in our local economy; the Asheville Craft beer Community. I am appalled; regardless of what laws or whatever else the NC Alcoholic Beverage Control can rationalize to substantiate the fact that at about 2:30 a.m. the morning of Feb.18 (a Wednesday) Outfitted with a pair of binoculars, an ALE agent parked across Haywood Road from Altamont Brewing and watched as the brewery’s bartender cleaned up and drank what was later determined to be Altamont’s porter. Can you image!? What a violation!? Is this where our tax dollars are going? Teachers are being fired left and right; and the teachers we employ are getting paid peanuts; yet we fund this!? We fund an agency that spies on people AT WORK via binoculars at 2:30 AM!!? This is the act of FASCIST POLICE STATE and I call upon you to raise this issue to the appropriate level/s and voice an extreme concern.
Stupid, NC archaic law. Get rid if it. The federal and other state governments allow the comsumption of beer while employees are working.
While I understand we don’t want folks drinking and serving alcohol at the same time, how does it hurt anyone if an employee has a drink after the doors are closed to the public? The bartender’s actions may have violated the letter of the law, but certainly not the spirit of it. And that’s the point that most commentors are making: this appears to be a poor use of law enforcement resources.
What if the bartender got really wasted after work, and then had an accident that could kill someone??? Is that alright??!!
Are you asking if driving wasted and killing people is alright? Because I doubt anybody here is into that. But comparing shift beer after work to blacked out drunk driving murderer is a pretty big stretch there buddy.
After shift work beer usually leads to more
Shift beers. Ever work at a bar? If so, you know what I mean.
You are assuming that everybody that works in a bar consumes alcohol to the point of being drunk. Yes there are some, but not all.
So we should have a secret police staked out outside of all bars with binoculars spying on their every move? What about all the people who had beers earlier? Should they be subjected to alcohol test before they can leave the building? Perhaps it would be best if we just ban alcohol altogether?
you guys obviously do not understand ALE laws, esp when you work in a bar or hold a liquor license. doesn’t seem like you are getting the point.
I work in a bar. I understand the laws. What I don’t understand is that Draconian approach to enforcing those laws. Having an after hours stake out to catch an employee having a shift beer is ridiculous. Hail has too much power.
So every time someone has ONE beer, they end up drinking to oblivion and kill someone? Call Raleigh! We need a lot more binoculars over here!
“What if the bartender got really wasted after work, and then had an accident that could kill someone???”
Well, laws already exist for that, covering everybody.
What if the ALE agent’s binoculars reflected a laser beam and set an assisted living facility on fire? If you’re going to come up with crazy stuff, make it real crazy.
There are laws that any business serving alcohol must follow. The ALE holds “classes” a few times a year for anyone involved with alcohol can attend. Laws and rules are discussed. Selling alcohol is a huge responsibility, which can affect the lives of many people.
The ALE agent is doing his/her job. This officer was not lurking in the bushes waiting – he drove by and noticed lights on, people inside after hours. Of course he’s gonna look! The bartender knows what he did is wrong. Get a grip – follow the rules or don’t get in the business.
“He drove by and noticed lights on” It was 2:30am, he was just driving by? He wasn’t, he was hiding across the street, with binoculars.
Well at least her and all her agents can legally marry in all fifty states!?
Wow, thank God our tax dollars are going to keep people from hurting…absolutely no one at all. But Jesus is watching…
God, I hate politicians.
It’s the law. There are other laws, which aren’t being enforced. Small brewers can’t give away equipment and Panthers tickets to get draft lines, so there’s no enforcement of ‘coercion’ rules.
It states clearly in the law books: “Beer and alcohol is to only be enjoyed while vacationing in the mountains.”
So, it’s gonna be a “gotcha” kind of thing?
Under the cover of darkness, the nimble and stealthy ALE agent stroked his goatee and lifted the binoculars one last time before he decides to start the state-issue Chevrolet Malibu…and wait…..there it is…a sip of the most heinous nature. He smiles, snickers and says to himself….”I am Agent 459. I will hold up the laws of the State of NC, no matter how dumb, if it is the last thing I do.” Slowly dialing his boss, he knows that this will give him purpose and back patting around the water cooler.
He has arrived.
How goofy is that, citing a guy for having his shift beer while cleaning after the place is closed. Is that even a thing? How can that be a crime? $1500 is ridiculous. We gotta get these ALE clowns exposed so we can know who the assholes are.
Wow – so the Republican Legislature thinks a better use of State funds is to have 5 people in town spying on people drinking beer, rather than give teachers a raise.
At the same time they rail against “regulation” and the gument intruding into peoples lives.
Amen Wobble. What a bunch of useless, self serving hypocrites.
There needs to be limits on both sides. Drinking on the job is not a good idea. If someone drinks on the job then gets in a car accident on the way home, who is liable, the employee or the employer?
I would rather be the hamster in a Vaseline Day Parade on Fire Island than sit in a car at 2:30 in the morning trying to catch an employee drinking a beer while cleaning up a closed beer joint.
This is Keystone Cops-level silliness, right here.
Can brewer’s sample their product at the brewery’s while working?
The drinking while working thing is geared to be able to make a judgement call whether or not to serve a person. At 2:30 am no one is being served and it is legal to drink up until that time but not to be “served” a drink after 2 am.
Wow…this state needs to move on from the Prohibition era.
Sorry, couldn’t resist.
“Special Agent Mulder with the FBI”
Jason, where do the fines they “levy” for infractions like this go… back into the community, or into the State coffers – and what are the fines ultimately used for, “education” or just straight profit?
ALE – Continuing the great Southern tradition of going after and harassing and (possibly) ticketing or arresting anyone who brews or consumes alcohol in the pursuit of more revenue. Back where I grew up (Wilkes County), they were ‘Revenuers’ in the Prohibition days. Sounds like ALE is just the fancy new acronym for a modern ‘Revenuer’. What’s next… Prohibition in the 21st century? We are approaching the 2020s so maybe they’re going for some 100-year anniversary revival?
Didn’t Miss Cox state that her agency doesn’t have the time or inclination to filter through the local media and keep track of what’s going on with regard to the many festivals where beer is being served….
but apparently they do have the time to sit, under the cover of darkness with binoculars to attempt to catch folks…
maybe Altamont needs to purchase some drapes.
The ALE is/has and always will be assholes.
“maybe Altamont needs to purchase some drapes.”
This. I’m betting many establishments will be purchasing drapes.
So you have to sit outside until 2.30am with your binoculars to try to catch someone doing something just a little wrong. Who pays these people and why are they going after the only industry helping to pay bills in this city. This woman needs to get some balance in her life, have a beer and relax.
She needed a little overtime pay.
OMG, wtf? Could this money not be better spent building homes for the homeless or some such? Swap the binocs for a hammer…
Haha, can you imagine being an adult and secretly watching another adult drink a beer after work at 230 in the morning so you can tattle tell to your boss? Pathetic.
I have some funny stories about the ALE from our Orange Peel days. We were never cited, but they sure tried hard! We experienced some slapstick comedy moments. I’m not sure where they get these guys.
What a waste of time! A brewery employee had a beer AFTER THE BAR WAS CLOSED, WHILE CLEANING?!?!? Way to only regulate safety, ALE. I cant believe we allow the government to regulate such nonsense. Who was this poor guy hurting by having a beer while cleaning a closed bar?
He was hurting himself, probably lost his job right? T? he got in his car, while intoxicated, endangering others on the highway; and, who knows what could happen, when and if he made it home, could he fight with his wife or child.
I’ve lived with alcoholics all my life and I can tell you that I wish we would have a Prohibition! It is a mind altering drug right along with cocaine and heroine.
It is evil! Look at the statistics of how many people die from its use, or how many people are still suffering today because of the abuse which occured many years ago, from an alcolic persons abuse!!!
How many children do you imagine,who were abused but have never ever told anyone! Could they be among the mentally deranged people that are going on killing sprees or ?? Just saying…
Wow. Patricia. What a leap from one beer to a deranged murderer! How about the possibility that he had a beer, closed up shop, walked home to his house around the corner then went to sleep because he had just put in a full day’s work.
Does this feel silly to anyone else? Binoculars?
While in the Odditorium Parking lot?