Idaho police cracking down on infused alcohol

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho State Police have bolstered the Alcohol Beverage Control Unit and are cracking down in Boise on infused alcohol such as bacon-infused whiskey and basil-infused vodka.

Lt. Russ Wheatley told the Idaho Statesman the drinks violate Idaho law because the process of infusing the alcohol means taking alcohol out of a bottle and replacing it again.

Wheatley said something could be put in the liquor that makes people sick. Or an employee could replace one type of alcohol with a cheaper brand.

“From our perspective, (bars) have to sell liquor by the drink,” he said. “You can’t take it out of a bottle, replace it and then sell it again. That is illegal. This is really a consumer protection issue. We don’t know what people are putting in those bottles. There is a reason the rules are written the way they are.”

Red Feather bar co-owner Kevin Kelpe said he understands the strict interpretation of Idaho law but questions why it’s being enforced now when his bar staff has been infusing alcohol with flavors for a decade.

“I guess my question is: ‘How is this benefiting anyone?’” Kelpe said. “We don’t feel angry about it. But it is strange.”

An increase in funds from Idaho lawmakers allowed the unit to expand in 2012 from two officers to 10, along with a sergeant and a lieutenant. With more officers, expect stricter enforcement, Wheatley said. Earlier this month, the unit seized dozens of bottles of infused liquor.

“It was impossible to stay on top of these things with two employees,” Wheatley said. “What we have here is an industry that hasn’t been looked at very closely for the better part of 10 years.”

He said no citations were issued in the recent seizures, which he described as an educational action. But he said penalties could result if establishments continue to infuse liquor.

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Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com

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