RED HOOK, Brooklyn — Customers were shocked to hear that their beloved Red Hook Winery near Liberty Warehouse in Red Hook may be the center of an illegal moonshine operation.
In a raid a few days ago, investigators from the New York State liquor Authority ordered owner Mark Snyder to dismantle four gas-fired stills which they say could have exploded. Investigators also found 40 cases of illegally manufactured spirits in the back of the winery.
Snyder was charged by the city sheriff's office and led away in handcuffs.
“I think it is probably a mixup. The cost of a license is cheap,” Red Hook Winery customer Alex Meister said. “It is probably a documentation error."
Authorities couldn't believe it either.
“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," counsel to the New York State Liquor Authority Christopher Riano said. "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."
The Red Hook Winery was opened in 2008 and serves more than 70 red and white wines. It has many devoted customers.
“We love the place, wonderful people,” Jamie Meister said. “They’ve been through a lot with Sandy. We give them the benefit of the doubt."
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."