Spotted Cow, the popular New Glarus beer, cannot be sold in this state. But the Wisconsin export is so irresistible one local bar just had to give it a shot.
The Hennepin County Attorney's office brought down the hammer on two miscreant bar managers yesterday, slapping the owner and manager of Maple Tavern with felony charges for sneaking the coveted Spotted Cow across the border. The owner (Brandon Hlavka, 37, of St. Michael) and general manager (David Lantos, 28, of Brooklyn Park) were formally charged on February 4 with a single felony offense of transporting alcohol into Minnesota for resale.
On April 13, 2015, two Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division (AGED) agents went to the Maple Tavern after receiving an anonymous tip that the Maple Grove watering hole was illegally tapping the Wisco-exclusive farmhouse ale. When they ordered the New Glarus flagship, they were indeed served the beer. Afterward, the bar was served with a warrant, with agents seizing three kegs of Spotted Cow.
They also found receipts for 10 other kegs indicating that Lantos had driven to Hudson, Wisconsin, and bought reserves of the beer from several liquor stores before illicitly transporting and reselling it.
"While this is far from the most serious crime we’ve had to prosecute, businesses must follow the laws the legislature passes to make sure the competition is fair and the products are safe for consumers,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said this afternoon in a press release.
New Glarus isn't licensed to sell its beers in Minnesota, nor are Minnesota distributors permitted to import it. But smuggling Spotted Cow is a matter of safety as much as it is propriety.
Maple Tavern's liquor license was nearly revoked for the indiscretion, but they began serving again under a new license in July after going dry for three weeks. Bar staff was also fired, though it wasn't stated whether Hlavka and Lantos were included in that purge. This is the first legal action levied against the two, and the criminal charges are a decisive — and somewhat surprising — move for Hennepin County law enforcement.
Hlavka and Lantos will appear in court on March 2. It is not clear what penalty the bosom racketeers will face if determined to be guilty, though a New York bar was fined $20,000 in 2009 for similar misdeeds.