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Nanny State of the Week: Minnesota men facing felony charges for selling beer

By   /   February 15, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

Part 69 of 93 in the series Nanny State of the Week

This week’s Nanny State involves a trip into the Way-Back Machine, to a time almost 100 years ago.

You see, kids, back in the early 20th Century, there was actually a time when drinking alcohol was illegal in this country. It was called Prohibition, and for about 12 years it was a serious crime to be caught making or selling booze.

Image via Wiki Commons

PROHIBITION: The Nanny State was on full display during Prohibition. Now, decades later, Minnesota is preparing to send two men to jail for illegally transporting beer without a license.

Luckily, times have changed and we now recognize that Prohibition was a serious misstep by the federal government that did more harm than … hold on, what’s the date on this story from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune? Does that say “February 11, 2016,” right above the headline that explains how two Minnesota men are facing felony charges – yes, felony charges – for selling beer?

Yes, it’s true. Two men in Maple Grove, Minnesota, were arrested this week and slapped with felony charges of transporting alcohol for resale without a license. They were nabbed as part of what the Star-Tribune called an “unusual bust” involving undercover state investigators.

Unusual, yes. Anachronistic too.

The illegal beer was a keg of Spotted Cow, a popular brew made in Wisconsin by the New Glarus Brewing Company. New Glarus does not distribute their products in Minnesota (or anywhere outside of Wisconsin, for that matter).

According to police, Maple Tavern owner Brandon Hlavka, 37, of St. Michael, and manager David Lantos, 28, of Brooklyn Park, made a beer-run across the border to buy a keg of the Spotted Cow, which they brought back to their bar and tapped for customers.

Here’s how it went down, according to the Star-Tribune: “The Wisconsin Department of Revenue received an anonymous tip about the alcohol-related crime and contacted Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety, according to the criminal complaint. Undercover officers visited the bar on April 13, ordered Spotted Cow from the tap and secretly tested the beer, which proved stronger than 3.2 percent alcohol.”

Shutterstock image

SPOTTED COW: According to police, Maple Tavern owner Brandon Hlavka, 37, of St. Michael, and manager David Lantos, 28, of Brooklyn Park, made a beer-run across the border to buy a keg of the Spotted Cow, which they brought back to their bar and tapped for customers.

Those sleuths at the Department of Public Safety eventually uncovered a total of three kegs of Spotted Cow in the bar and found a receipt for 10 kegs purchased from Wisconsin liquor stores. It sure is good to know that public health menace has been removed.

The whole thing only gets more insane when you think about the details.

The two men bought the beer in Wisconsin, which is legal.

They brought it back across the border to Minnesota, which is legal (full disclosure: this reporter brings at least one six-pack of what he has code-named “Spotty Moo Moo” into Minnesota every time he visits Wisconsin) as long as you don’t re-sell the product.

They served it in a bar that has a license to sell beer in Minnesota, which is also legal.

And even though those three things are legal in the abstract, when you put them together it is a recipe for a felony offense.

They are officially charged with transportation of alcohol into Minnesota for resale without a license.

The last three words are really all that matters. Without a government-issued permission slip, all those otherwise-legal activities suddenly become serious crimes in the eyes of the Minnesota state government.

The final absurdity is the fact that Hlvaka and Lantos have been charged with a felony. Under Minnesota law, all felonies are punishable by at least one year in prison – let’s hope they get shipped off to Alcatraz like all those other famous bootleggers, right?

Ironically enough, Minnesota was somewhat famous during actual Prohibition for looking the other way when it came to bootlegging (and the organized crime that went with it). The capital city of St. Paul was considered a “safe city” for gangsters on the run from cops in Chicago and elsewhere, even though the author of the federal law that gave teeth to the 18th Amendment of the Constitution hailed from western Minnesota.

But now, long after Prohibition has ended, Minnesota might send two men to jail for selling beer. That’s life in the Nanny State. I need a drink.

Part of 93 in the series Nanny State of the Week
  1. Nanny-state state of the week: MD may become first to ban Vaportinis
  2. Nanny-state city of the week: Minneapolis wants to ban take-out trays
  3. Skim is in: CT lawmakers want to ban whole milk in day cares
  4. Nanny state of the week: Fairfax, VA, wants to limit the right to assemble
  5. Nanny state of the week: SC — and Schumer — for duplicative efforts to ban powdered alcohol
  6. Nanny of the Week: Virginia hoses down car wash fundraisers
  7. Nanny of the Week: Even a summertime trip to the beach can’t be nanny-free
  8. Nanny of the week: Federal authorities think feral cats can read signs
  9. Nanny of the week: Cambridge wants to ban ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft
  10. Nanny-stater of the week: NY lawmaker wants to ban photos with tigers
  11. Nanny-stater of the Week: Who needs cupcakes and candy? Here, have a pencil
  12. Nanny-stater of the week: Fargo limits kids to less than four shots of juice per day
  13. Nanny-stater of the week: Wisconsin towns fight repeal of bow ban
  14. Nanny of the week: No fun in the sun, thanks to Congress and FDA
  15. Nanny-stater of the week: DOT to ban cell phone use on planes
  16. Nanny of the week: The out-of-control trend of arresting non-helicopter moms
  17. Nanny of the Week: Vermont city could ban ‘human activity’
  18. Nanny of the Week: Mississippi makes bird feeders illegal – by accident
  19. Nanny of the week: MO town bans breastfeeding near pools
  20. Nanny of the Week: School bans lip balm, 11 year-old girl fights back
  21. Watchdog.org blows lid off Vermont’s bake sale brownie ban
  22. Nanny of the Week: Seattle imposes fine on residents who throw away food
  23. Nanny of the Week: California bans plastic bags
  24. Nanny of the week: Maybe this time it will be different for Chicago
  25. Nanny of the Week: Florida growls at craft breweries’ growlers
  26. Nanny of the Week: Massachusetts town seeking to ban tobacco faces uprising from residents
  27. Nanny of the Week: Proposed bans on Thanksgiving Day shopping
  28. Nanny of the week: U.S. government bans ‘Comfyballs’ underwear
  29. Nanny of the Week: Better take down those holiday decorations
  30. Nanny of the week: Towns ban sledding
  31. Nanny of the Week: New York City plans to ban out-of-state cars
  32. Nanny of the Week: Snow-shoveling teens get in trouble with the law
  33. Nanny of the Week: Get caught wearing yoga pants three times, go to jail for life
  34. Nanny of the Week: Georgia lawmaker wants to ban mermaids, werewolves, other fictional creatures from real life
  35. Nanny State of the Week: Endangering manatees in Florida
  36. Nanny of the Week: Christie caves to protectionist gravestone proposal in N.J.
  37. Nanny of the Week: Don’t mix beer and ice cream – because of the children
  38. Nanny of the Week: Is the minimum wage a nanny state policy?
  39. Nanny of the Week: Republican in NY backs cat declawing ban
  40. Nanny of the Week: NJ continues ban on self-serve gasoline, because sometimes it snows
  41. Nanny of the Week: Bernie Sanders is coming for your deodorant
  42. Nanny of the Week: Will babies confuse beer for their binkies?
  43. Nanny of the Week: Weeds will prevail in Maryland lawn care ban
  44. Nanny State of the Week: FDA bans trans-fats
  45. Nanny State of the Week: L.A. plans to jail unlicensed street vendors
  46. Nanny ST8 of the Week: Anti-government messages not allowed on license plates
  47. Nanny State of the Week: Helicopters, horses and New York City
  48. Nanny State of the Week: Lawsuit challenges Seattle trash snooping
  49. Nanny State of the Week: Town officials mandate mowing
  50. Nanny State of the Week: Florida county sends environmental specialist to investigate BBQ
  51. Nanny State: Despite menu nannies, Americans still fat!
  52. Nanny State of the Week: New York City’s ban on Styrofoam hurts businesses, consumers
  53. Nanny State of the Week: Colorado Springs may ban sitting in public places
  54. Nanny State of the Week: New York’s soda ban could be back — but for kids only
  55. Nanny State of the Week: D.C. flexing licensing muscles at personal trainers
  56. Nanny State of the Week: Hammock bans mean no hanging out on college campuses
  57. Nanny State of the Week: County can use same lawn treatments it banned residents from using
  58. Nanny State of the Week: Pols want to ban daily fantasy sports
  59. Nanny State of the Week: Bay Area bureaucrats ban fireplaces, wood stoves
  60. Nanny State of the Week: Halloween for the politically correct only
  61. Nanny State of the Week: Governments lag behind the public on orca captivity ban
  62. Nanny State of the Week: New York might accidentally ban makeup
  63. Nanny State of the Week: California could be first state to apply no-fly list to guns
  64. Nanny State of the Week: University may block social media app in futile effort to combat racism
  65. Nanny State of the Week: City fines residents for chipped paint, mismatched curtains
  66. Nanny State of the Week: No Christmas in Bethlehem this year
  67. Nanny State of the Week: Connecticut may outlaw smoking in many cars
  68. Nanny State of the Week: Town inspection checks whether you cleaned your toilet
  69. Nanny State of the Week: Minnesota men facing felony charges for selling beer
  70. Nanny State of the Week: City rewrites law to block theater from getting liquor license
  71. Nanny State of the Week: FDA goes beyond the pale, prepares to ban teen tanning
  72. Nanny State of the Week: Charleston’s storied history is off-limits to the unlicensed
  73. Nanny State of the Week: Feds marketing food stamps with bingo games, TV ads
  74. Nanny State of the Week: No sipping and selling for Alabama winemakers
  75. Nanny State of the Week: Jail time for texting while walking in New Jersey
  76. Nanny State of the Week: In time for Opening Day, cities ban chewing tobacco at ballparks
  77. Nanny State of the Week: Feds send LSD Ale on a long, strange trip
  78. Nanny State of the Week: Happy Tax Day! Now get ready to pay more to file
  79. Nanny State of the Week: A state license for breast-feeding advice?
  80. Nanny State of the Week: School officials bully kids with ban on skinny jeans
  81. Nanny State of the Week: FDA fries family’s potato chip business with new cooking oil mandates
  82. Nanny State of the Week: CFPB knows what is best for your personal finances
  83. Nanny State of the Week: City cracks down on crawfish boils after mayor’s aide complains
  84. Nanny State of the Week: Florida couple still fighting for their vegetable garden
  85. Nanny State of the Week: State lawmakers to decide where you can get an Uber in Boston
  86. Nanny State of the Week: Businesses can’t sell parking spaces to Braves fans
  87. Nanny State of the Week: OK, everybody’s foam toys, out of the pool
  88. Nanny State of the Week: Get out of the pool!
  89. Nanny State of the Week: Common sense goes to the dogs in Phoenix
  90. Nanny State Of The Week: It’s nanny-on-nanny in Portland pot dispute
  91. Nanny State of the Week: Your pool isn’t cool
  92. Nanny State of the Week: You can’t be trusted to rent to your family
  93. Nanny State of the Week: Protecting pub crawlers from themselves
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    Eric Boehm is the national regulatory reporter for Watchdog.org. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota. His work has appeared in Reason Magazine, National Review Online, The Freeman Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Examiner and Fox News. He was once featured in a BuzzFeed listicle. Follow him on Twitter @EricBoehm87 and reach him at [email protected]