Louisville beer enthusiasts probably already know that an Indiana Attorney General’s office advisory board has declared that the Floyd County Health Department’s requirement that New Albanian Brewing Company and other vendors pay a fee to sell their wares is in direct contradiction to state regulations.
We knew this was the case all along, because Roger Baylor does his due diligence, but now a higher authority has backed up this assertion. So what now? I asked Roger what would become of the money that had been illegally collected and whether NABC had heard anything from the health department.
“The FCHD has not responded, and we don’t expect them to,” Baylor wrote in an e-mail. “It’s a major beat
down from what is, in essence, their own attorney of last resort.”
He said the opinion came about because NABC asked the Brewers of Indiana Guild for help, and that group’s attorney brought the issue to the attention of the Alcohol & Tobacco Commission, which in turn asked for the AG’s office to rule. The ruling was based in part because of a similar case called City of Fort Wayne v. Kotosopoulos, 704 N.E.2d 1069 (1992). It was pretty much the same situation, and I’ll spare you all the what-fors and wheretos.
“I’m told that the ATC has adopted (or adapted?) the ruling as part of their official interpretive rule book, as applies specifically to the class of temporary permit holders specified in the advisory opinion,” Baylor wrote. “It remains interpretive/unofficial until a court might come to rule on a specific case, as with Fort Wayne v Kotsopoulos.”
So, yes, it’s a victory. Sort of. Because there’s no guarantee the Grinches at the health department plan to play ball. Baylor said the fees paid out amounted to less than $200, so NABC isn’t exactly reeling from that loss. But the principle remains: The health department is wrong, has now been proven so in the opinion of the freaking Attorney General’s office, and as such the former should pay back all those fees. Like, now.
Baylor said he’s inclined to let that one go, for the most part, however.
“NABC’s lawyer does not believe we’d get anywhere asking for the fees to be returned … because it was denied previously when we appealed to the FCHD board,” he wrote. “I’m trying to devise a way of asking the department for these to be returned, with the objective of us donating the money in turn to a worthy non-profit.”
That would be a nice bow on the victory, if indeed true victory comes. Until we know what the health department’s next move is, that remains a mystery.
“I see it as a stalemate of sorts, advantage NABC,” Baylor said, “with some welcomed documentation on our side. Time will tell.”