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September 16, 2008

Post-Journal

Prosecutors Crack Down On Beer Distributors

Four beer distributors that operate in Chautauqua County will be forced to pay $108,000 in restitution to local bars for violating the state's bottle deposit law.

According to state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, those four distributors refused to pay bar owners tens of thousands of dollars in handling fees that compensates them for processing recyclable cans and bottles.

''Small businesses form the backbone of our state's economy,'' Cuomo said in a statement issued Monday. ''This agreement ends a long-standing dispute. These distributors recognized their obligations to the local taverns and this agreement ensures that they will be compensated appropriately.''

Just as consumers pay and receive back a 5-cent deposit on certain cans and bottles as an incentive to recycle, bar owners do the same, paying the deposit to their distributors.

In addition to returning those deposits, distributors must also pay bar owners a 2-cent-per-container handling fee for the trouble.

According to Cuomo's office, four distributors in Chautauqua County - Arthur R. Gren Co. of Jamestown, Salamanca Area Beverage Co. of Little Valley and two others that operate under Certo Brothers Distributing of West Seneca - reportedly withheld the two-cent handling fee for over a decade. Three local taverns, according to the attorney general's office, weren't compensated for as many as 20 years.

Hank Certo of Certo Brothers Distributing refused to comment on the settlement, and representatives of the two other companies involved couldn't be reached.

The state's Bottle Bill, adopted in 1982 as the Returnable Container Act, established the present-day deposit system, which incentivizes the return of recyclable containers back to the distributors.

''In the long run, it underscores the fact that the state will take action to ensure the Bottle Bill, which works to reduce litter and promote recycling, is taken seriously,'' Pete Grannis, state Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner, said in a statement.

The Bottle Bill only covers carbonated beverages, though environmentalists are pushing for a tougher bill that includes other cans and bottles, which reportedly make up as much as 25 percent of the market.

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