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Nip Joints

What is a "nip joint"?

Nip joints, also known as shot houses, are unlicensed establishments (usually private residences) where alcoholic beverages are sold by the drink for both on-and off-premise consumption. Beverages of all types are sold, including illegally produced moonshine. These establishments range from very small, one-person operations to large, restaurant-style operations complete with bar stools, kitchens and entertainment. The person in charge of the operation is usually referred to as the House Man or House Lady.

Why are they illegal?

Nip joints pose several public safety problems. The first, and most obvious, is that it is an unlicensed and unregulated establishment dispensing an intoxicating substance to persons in their community with no controls or limitations. Secondly, nip joints often contribute to or foster other illegal activities to include narcotics, gambling, prostitution and disorderly conduct. Finally, a nip joint operation deprives the licensed restaurant owner of a legitimate source of income, and deprives the citizens of the Commonwealth and its localities of a legitimate source of tax revenues.

What are the penalties for operating a nip joint?

In Virginia, the operation of a nip joint is punishable as a Class I Misdemeanor under two separate code sections: Selling alcohol without a license and maintaining a common nuisance. Each of these charges carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine. Any person caught patronizing or frequenting a nip joint can also be charged with a misdemeanor under a number of state and local code sections. Additionally, any person possessing or selling untaxed whiskey (moonshine) can be charged criminally with a Class I Misdemeanor. Untaxed whiskey is sometimes manufactured under unsafe or unsanitary conditions and can contain high levels of lead and other harmful substances.

How are nip joints uncovered?

Most complaints concerning nip joint operations come from concerned citizens in the neighborhood and community police. ABC works in conjunction with local police to investigate and close down nip joint operations and arrest those persons responsible for their operation.

What can citizens do if they suspect someone is operating a nip joint?

Citizens are encouraged to contact their local police department or call ABC's CRIMELINE, (800) 552-3200, to provide information about possible nip joint activity.

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