Brooklyn winery busted for illegal distilling operations, officials say

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RED HOOK, Brooklyn — A Brooklyn winery was busted Wednesday for engaging in illegal distilling operations, the State Liquor Authority said.

An inspection was conducted the Red Hook Winery at 204 Van Dyke Street in Brooklyn after receiving reports that the winery was engaged in an illegal moonshine operation and has been considered “one of the first encountered by city law enforcement officials in over two decades.”

Officials from the New York State Liquor Authority, the city Sheriff’s Office and the Office of Emergency Management discovered four unlicensed stills, in addition to over 40 cases of illegally manufactured spirits packaged and stored in the back of the winery.

The stills were connected to gas-powered heat sources during the time of the inspection and were illegally hooked up to natural gas lines, SLA officials said.

A makeshift electrical box with exposed wires was also installed above gas burners.

Winery owner Mark Snyder was told to dismantle the stills prior to the National Grid shutting off the gas lines, said officials.

Snyder was arrested and charged for manufacturing for the sale of an alcoholic beverage without obtaining a proper license and for storing alcoholic beverages on any premise not duly licensed, according to SLA authorities.

The sheriff’s office and SLA investigators confiscated four stills, palettes of illegal spirits and six bottles from the winery’s tasting room. The Counsel to the Authority condemned the operation, but said it was not shocking to find it in Brooklyn.

“The discovery of an illegal moonshine operation in the heart of Brooklyn is nothing short of shocking, given how easy and inexpensive it is to obtain a distiller’s license in New York State,” said Counsel to the Authority Christopher R. Riano.  “This licensed manufacturer has not only demonstrated his utter insouciance for state and federal laws, but has created a dangerous situation by operating a primitive, make-shift bootleg operation in one of the most densely populated areas of our state.”

Under both state and federal law, engaging in the distilling of spirits and the possession of distilling apparatus without a license is illegal.  Distilleries are required to obtain a Distilled Spirits Plant (DSP) permit from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.  Additionally, distilleries operating in New York must obtain a license through the New York State Liquor Authority.

Snyder’s lawyer told PIX11 he is cooperating with authorities to ensure he has all state and federal regulations.

“Mr. Snyder’s arrest is shocking given that he had been fully cooperating with both the TTB and the SLA to ensure compliance with all state and federal regulations.

Mr. Snyder believed he had the necessary licenses and was actively working with both the SLA and the TTB to determine if additional licenses were needed. At the request of the TTB, Mr. Snyder had voluntarily put the Grappa product on hold, and the brandy still was disconnected and non-operational. The dismantled still was even inspected by the TTB. The SLA was also aware that at the direction of the TTB the brandy still had been shut down, that the product was not being manufactured or sold, and that it had been moved into the bonded facility.  Mr. Snyder offered to voluntarily surrender the Grappa that was on-site and the TTB declined that offer.

In light of all of this, we are surprised by the actions of the Sheriff in arresting Mr. Snyder.”

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