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"I fought the law and the law didn't win this time," says Michael Haggard, owner of Bay Discount Wine and Liquor. 

Haggard's fight is with an edict from Mississippi's Alcohol Beverage Control board telling him he must now destroy $15,000 worth of product that came into contact with the flood waters brought on by Hurricane Katrina.

And that's good news, that's his "win," if you can call it that.

You see, two weeks ago Haggard was staring straight into a financial abyss courtesy of a letter from the ABC demanding he destroy some $40,000 worth of inventory, and that's where the fight began.

Haggard called ABC for clarification and they sent an enforcement officer to assess the situation.  The officer told him that essentially everything stored on his second shelf to the floor was toast. Basically if water touched a bottle's label, it had to be destroyed, Haggard says he was told. 

Haggard challenged the call asking to see where the rules said in "black and white that if (a bottle) had two-inches of water on it I can keep it but if it had four inches of water (reaching the label) I had to destroy it." 

Haggard pressed the ABC for definitive guidelines.  "I said if you want me to destroy this you're going to have to give me the parameters, the rules, the regulations.  And I assume if you want me to destroy it and I want to go into defiance of that and want to go ahead and sell it, even though you want me to destroy it, then I'm in violation of some law or regulation and I want to know what that penalty is, too," Haggard recalled.

The state then turned to the federal government.  And as it turns out there are Food and Drug Administration rules dealing with flood damaged liquor.  "That rule is, so long as the water never reached the cap, I can clean it and sell it," Haggard said. 

At that point "the state backed up," Haggard said.  "I won the second shelf and that's roughly about $25,000 of the $40,000 they originally wanted me to destroy."

The battle is now over that remaining $15,000 in inventory.  It's all product he's bought and paid for already; he's even paid the sales tax on it.  However, he can't sell it; he can't even take it home, according to state liquor laws which prohibit off-site storage by liquor stores.

Haggard maintains that if he can't sell the stuff he should be allowed to at least take it home to consume himself, have a party or give away; he has no intention of selling it. 

"I'm still trying to win the battle of who this stuff belongs to and does the state of Mississippi have the right to come in here and make me destroy my own private property," he says. 

So for now the floor of Haggard's store is lined with row after row of dusty, muck encrusted liquor bottles.  He's covered them all with orange plastic netting, like the kind you might see ringing a construction site warning people of some potential hazard.  And for the time being it's going nowhere.  The state hasn't given him a deadline on when it has to be destroyed and, truth is, Haggard says he's been pretty busy trying to put his life back together to worry much about it.  "Destroying $15,000 worth of liquor isn't high on my priority list right now," he says.

Down the line, Haggard said he'll consider taking the matter to court, if it comes to that.  "But the last thing I want is to get into a great big fight with the state," he said.

"So, did I win?  I guess I won," Haggard said.  But he's got $15,000 lying on the table and he just called the state's hand.  And by now the state knows Haggard isn't bluffing.

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22 COMMENTS

If he's paid for it, including the sales tax, that's his property. He should be able to do whatever he wants with it - if he wants to drink $15,000 worth of alcohol, so be it! He's already said he has no intention of selling it. Somehow I doubt he'd be able to fool anyone by telling them it hasn't been damaged by floodwaters; the label would be damaged and I don't think it would be possible to get all the crud off. From the sound of it, he wouldn't want to fool anyone anyways. Let the man keep his liquor!

Good for you...glad to see you making "some" head-way. I wouldn't get rid of a bit of it until they return my tax money that they have already collected on it.

Again, good for you! One thought, the loss of this inventory (for any reason) will most likely be a nice tax deduction. Something to check out before Dec. 31 and before disposing of the inventory (either for personal use or destroying it). So, it might be something that can turn around and bite these guys in the glutteous maximus.

I see it over and over again, our govenment is not for the people. It's for the dollar. They need to put come common sense into these decisions.

Do they specifically state how to destroy the bottles? Will they be there to watch?? If not have one hell of a party!!!!!!!!

What about all the bottles of alcohol that has sat thru other storms for years,and are found. And are auction for high $$$$ dollars. Just for their discovery, of when it happened. I say, hold on to your inventory and see what, in years too come, your treasures may bring from The Hurricane Katrina 2005.

Hang in there Mike! Your doing a great job! Fight for what is yours. From what i see we are the forgotten people on the Mississippi Gulf coast since the storm as far as the government is concerned. All they are there for is to take and not to give. Good luck and keep up the fight!

Yeah what a grand idea..... bury a few of those bottles with some other debris from Katrina in a time capsule. If the liquor can survive 75 years in the ground....I say, let the people of the future drink it!.

And come on, Mississippi, at least give the man his sales taxes back!

Good for you Mike, it's your property. Suggest you auction each bottle on the internet as a keepsake for those of us that did not experience the hurricane. They may be as valuable as a moonrock. Good luck.

Actually, when I talked to Mike for this story he did tell me how the liquor would be destroyed, if it came to that.

He would have to "containerize" all the product to be destroyed. Those containers would be taken to a local landfill. Then, with state ABC representatives standing by to watch, a bulldozer would run over the crates and crush them and bury them into the landfill.

Satisified that the deed was done, the ABC would would sign off some piece of paper and "done is done."

LSK is right bury the bottles (carefully)....that should constitute destroying them...in time who will know the diff.?....they could be rediscovered and worth $$$$$$

The inventory should be destroyed. Toxic waste should not be taken lightly.

Tell you what; just leave for awhile. Looters will take care of it and then the insurance kicks in. Or, a bottle missing here, a bottle missing there? Can you say "shrink"? Finally, if any of it is wine, just sit on it. It might be worth even more down the road! Let it age.

In the mid 60's the stste of Mississippi raised a barge from the Mississippi River and sold the liqour that was on it that had been sent to General Grantt during the seige of Vicksburg. The state didn't distroy it, the state made a fortune off of it. I know, because I bought 2 bottles for $250 each and drank it. It was wonderful!

Considering that Achahol is a natural disinfectant and that the seals were never broken, I see no reason for Mr Haggard to have to distroy anything. As it was noted before, bottles of wine, brandy, and or champaign recovered from shipwrecks have been sold for high $$$$.

While I wouldn't pay extra for the stuff myself, but I also wounldn't worry about buying some of liquire. Even some from the first shelf.

If the government is so determine to get these alcohol to waste, maybe it will be appropriate to ask if it is OK to let it pass through someone's liver first!

I would love to have one of the bottles for a souvenir, as I would imagine alot of others would too! You might consider Ebay; I am a collector so, I will be watching!

Ol'Miss is messed up in more ways than one. They are so worried about crud on labels, why the public might get sick. How about getting sick seeing your tax dollars pay for a gambling boat. I'll bet they don't have to destroy cruddy bottles.

Mike is my kind of guy. Of course if someone thinks originally and their head raises above the herd in the process, someone is going to take a shot at it. Look at guys like Lincoln, Ghandi, and Martin King. Down with the bureauracy and all he darn cowards who take cover within it.

I've been watching the story ever since it broke a couple of weeks ago. I know it will work itself out. Good going Mike and hang in there. I'm sorry we didn't get a chance to go to Waveland. We had limited time and the Rt.90 bridge being out would have taken too much time away from where and what we were doing. Hang in there Mike and stay strong!!

Turn you state mandated loss into a financial gain, go to the Internet.

Hey, Once more it goes to show you we dont live in a FREE country. We live in the Politicians country. They make the rules and their paycheck. We just abide by them and pay them. Don't give up, keep fighting! Hope all is well and let us know any updates on this matter!

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