Investigators with the Pennsylvania State Police raided Farmers' Cabinet (1111-13 Walnut St.) Wednesday night, and contend that the liquor license posted at the bar was forged to disguise the fact that it had been operating since the end of October without a liquor license.
Matt Swartz, who identified himself to police as the owner, was arrested, state police said. He faces charges including forgery, sales of beer and wine without a valid license, tampering with public records and conspiracy.
He was arraigned Thursday and faces a hearing Jan. 2.
Farmers' Cabinet was open for business Thursday night; its bar was closed.
State police said Swartz, husband of one of the owners, gave police a written statement that he forged a temporary liquor license and instructed staff to show it to the LCE officers. Police said Swartz told them he knowingly sold alcohol without a license because he needed money and could not pay his taxes timely.
Supervisor Frank Spera of the state police said 832 bottles of beer and liquor were removed, a process that took more than six hours. Farmers' Cabinet, which opened in 2011, is allowed to remain open but cannot sell alcohol.
Bars must renew their annual licenses by Oct. 31. Farmers' Cabinet's license has been listed as "inactive" since. Bar owners can get authority to renew their licenses after that date.
Farmers' Cabinet was late last year in obtaining its renewal. At the bar, it posted its LCB authority letter, dated Nov. 29, 2012, with its license.
The state police said investigators visited the Farmers' Cabinet last week, on Dec. 12, ordered a beer, and told employees to cease operations until they had authority to operate.
Management then showed officers documents indicating that Farmers' Cabinet had temporary authority to operate until Dec. 29.
That document was copied and sent to the LCB.
On Wednesday, the LCB told the state police that the document was a forgery and that the licensee has no authority to operate. The bar owes unspecified taxes; the state Revenue Department would not disclose the amount.
Spera said someone had whited-out the "2012" on the authority letter, typed in "2013," photocopied it, and posted the letter with the liquor license.
Last night at 7, an investigator ordered and paid for a drink. Then police swooped in.
Spera said the document was easily branded a fake by the date: Nov. 29, 2013, was the day after Thanksgiving, a state holiday.
"This is very unusual," said Sgt. Daniel Steele, the state police squad supervisor.
Swartz's name is not even on the license - nor on any liquor license that his bars have been operating with. The name of his wife, Colleen, and that of a former manager, Benjamin T. Miosi, are listed on the license held by Grainery Restaurant Group LLC.
Philadelphia Magazine, whose website first reported the raid, said Swartz had spent time in prison on wire-fraud charges.
The state for years had prohibited people with certain criminal records from owning bars, but Spera said that is now decided case by case.
Recently, Matt Swartz took over the former Whistle Bar at 38 S. 19th St. in Rittenhouse as Sutton's Parlor.
The Swartzes entered the Philly scene in October 2010, with Fork & Barrel, a Euro beer bar in East Falls.
In March 2011, they opened the Farmers' Cabinet.
A month later, they moved out of the Fork & Barrel in the middle of the night, calling it a "business decision to close since The Farmers’ Cabinet has so many of the same elements." It also closed Tap & Table in Emmaus.
On Sept. 28, 2012, the Swartzes opened The Butcher & Brewer at 216 S. 11th St. It closed 51 days later, on Nov. 17.