Chesapeake, VA — Sid Tatem was trying to enjoy a picnic at Chesapeake’s Northwest River Park last week, but an overzealous park ranger quickly ruined the family outing. The ranger approached Tatem and sons inquiring about what they were drinking. Turns out the trio was enjoying some of grandpa’s homemade Kombucha, a fermented tea that has been around for thousands of years. Ranger Michael Peters was informed by Tatem the mixture might have residual alcohol from its fermentation but it could hardly be considered an alcoholic beverage.
Kombucha is the fermented tea that is sold in nearly every store across the country and which has an alcohol content so low that children can purchase it legally.
Currently quite a health food rage, it’s loaded in probiotics, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory substances. In other words, it’s really good for you and your body.
However, Peters detained the family, confiscated the Kombucha, forced them to pour it out and promptly kicked the innocent grandfather and his grandchildren out of the park. The three had made a day visiting Tatem’s father’s grave and decided to stop by the park and enjoy some food and family time. Tatem said:
I thought it was good, clean fun…And as far as I’m concerned, it is.
The grandfather described the encounter between he, his 8 and 14-year-old grandsons, and Peters.
He said real assertively, ‘What are you guys drinking today?’…He was very disturbed, convinced I was contributing the delinquency of my grandsons…Kombucha is not considered an alcoholic drink anywhere.
Grandpa’s right. Kombucha is sold to minors as if it were a soda and the alcohol content is somewhere between .5 and 2 percent, hardly enough to have any effect on anyone. It is similar to a “near beer” drink such as the marked brand of beer O’Douls which has .5 percent alcohol. Even in Texas, where weed is still illegal, minors can buy O’Douls and kmobucha.
Tatem described what happened after he attempted to reason with Peters.
I thought, this is a losing situation. I asked the officer what he wanted us to do. He said, ‘Dump the kombucha out, and leave the park.’ We did so in silence.
Predictably, Peters’ supervisors stood behind their agent of the state. City spokeswoman Elizabeth Vaughn, supported the ranger’s decision to confiscate property which didn’t belong to him, pour it out, and send the trio from whence they came. Vaughn stated:
The citizen offered up the information that the containers had home-brewed kombucha, and the fact it contained alcohol. Seeing it was given to juveniles, he was told to leave the park.
One could say Tatem got off pretty lucky. Had he resisted the confiscation, other men with guns could have been called and they could’ve been hurt. Had he chose not surrender his homemade Kombucha, he could have been tased, beaten, or possibly even killed. We’re not exaggerating folks. This happens all the time.
When citizens are determined to flex their rights, bad things can often happen. Tatem had a right not to be contacted by the Park Ranger. He also had a right not to speak with the ranger. He also had a right not to be searched and his property seized. Furthermore, the grandpa and his two grandsons had a right to be able to enjoy the park just like everyone else—without becoming subject to the American police state.