Roger Baylor over at New Albanian Brewing Company has never been one to hold his opinion or measure his words, which is why I’m not at all surprised that he has come out swinging in the wake of the Floyd County Health Department abruptly, for lack of a better word, demanding that NABC purchase a temporary food permit last week at an event NABC was catering, via an apologetic foot soldier.
Baylor has argued that it is the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms that regulates beer handling and sales, and has for years — not to mention that alcohol isn’t exactly the same as a hamburger. Which, you know, is why NABC and other beer vendors have apparently never needed a food permit for these types of events before.
My thought about this strange and sudden clamp-down is “why?” Baylor called it a “power grab” in a press statement and filed an appeal, standing up for the fact that this abrupt mandate has no precedent. Meanwhile, Floyd County Health Officer Dr. Tom Harris is calling it a “state regulation,” and that vendors pouring beer at any public event must indeed pony up the $20 for a food permit. Yet, Baylor, who has been doing business in Floyd County and the surrounding areas for years, has never experienced it or even gotten a whiff of it until now.
Obviously, it’s not that Baylor can’t find $20 in his budget for these events — it’s the principle. Harris claims his department has cited others similarly, and that NABC is not being singled out. Baylor, who probably knows the local beer and food scene as well as anyone, says he simply has never heard of such madness, and was blind-sided by the citation.
Jeff Gillenwater, quoting a Clark County Health Department worker, posted on Baylor’s New Albany Confidential website that, “I work at the Clark County Health Department. We do not make beer vendors get [temporary] food permits because beer is not considered a potentially hazardous food.”
The State of Indiana Food Handling Certification Rule (410 IAC 7-22) agrees with Baylor and the unnamed Clark County Health Department employee, specifically listing beer as a “non‐potentially hazardous beverage” that is exempt from its food handling policies. Apparently, Floyd County now sees it differently.
Again … why? More specifically, why now? If Harris’ department had sent someone to let NABC know that in the future they’d have to buy a permit, that would be one thing. Instead, it was a citation, no questions asked. This feels like the action of a department bent on control.
“Amid the tortuously Orwellian world of Dr. Tom Harris’s health department,” Baylor wrote on Facebook this morning, “it’s just another $20 slapped down to fund programs his county political bosses won’t.”
It will be interesting to see how the appeals process plays out. Baylor said he has no idea how long it will take or whether the appeal hearing will be public, and that he will, under protest, pay the $20 each time he and his associates pour beer into a plastic cup (including tonight at Bicentennial Park).
Heck, at this point Roger might as well start selling hot dogs and brats from his booth to go with the beer. If he’s got to pay for a food permit anyway, why not sell food to help pay for the permit? Can I have spicy mustard with mine, please?
I jokingly asked Baylor if his brewing machines kill local fascists as well (a nod to a phrase Woody Guthrie had painted on his guitar, and one which can be found on many NABC t-shirts). His response?
“I have a new phrase, not co-opted from Woody Guthrie: ‘These machines mock reactionaries.'”
UPDATE: Baylor has requested five years of food permit citations to learn how many citations have been issued previously to those vending food vs. alcohol. In addition, Harris told The News-Tribune that the NABC appeal will be heard at the next regular Floyd County Health Department board meeting.