Microbreweries and wineries are popping up all over Virginia, bringing more acceptance to “craft” alcoholic beverages than ever before. But, the Virginia department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) still has plenty of regulations that stop residents from producing their own spirits, as well as illegally selling any type of alcohol. Homemade spirits, such as moonshine, still present a danger to the public, despite decades of education, and the sale of these spirits in “Nip Joints,” can land you in jail with a pretty hefty fine.
Nip Joints are a throwback to the days when alcohol was not allowed to be sold or consumed, and are especially popular in rural areas where corn is abundant. But, because of the health considerations attributed to moonshine (lead and methanol are by-products) and the absence of tax revenue from the sale of these beverages, Virginia has continued to prosecute Nip Joint operators, even as recently as this year.
As a homemade beverage, moonshine presents another very real problem: the amount of alcohol in moonshine is hard to regulate. In licensed production of alcohol, there are ways to maintain a regular percentage of ethanol in each type of beverage. Bars and restaurants that are licensed to sell alcohol are also trusted to monitor the amount of alcohol any patrons drink, helping to keep the streets safe from drunk drivers. Since Nip Joints sell illegal, unregulated alcohol, the drinks may cause an increased risk of drunk driving incidents from either the higher amount of alcohol in the drinks or from others allowing a person to get behind the wheel and drive while intoxicated.
Since Virginia’s DUI laws are among the strictest in the country, including mandatory car breathalyzer or ignition interlock device installations for first-time offenders, there is little doubt that Nip Joint owners are still prosecuted today. Drinking responsibly is a matter of understanding the laws that regulate the production and sale of alcohol, as well as how to remain safe and sober while driving.