Ian Anderson of the Reader reported in December that Tijuana’s Insurgente brewery resumed making beer in Zona Rio on December 18 after being shut down by city authorities.
But now in late January, the state attorney’s office seized the brewery’s Zona Rio property, home to its main brewing operation and marquee tasting room, on allegations of producing pollutant emissions and noncompliance with current sanitation norms.
As reported by Tijuana muckraker outlet Zeta, the state agency received a citizen complaint regarding the brewery on Thursday, January 30, this after an inspection from the Federal Commission Against Sanitary Risks.
“Upon entering the business, we immediately saw various blue plastic vessels with exposed organic waste, which gave off a fetid smell. Likewise, we found metallic containers leaking an unidentified liquid which formed a stagnant pool,” the State Office disclosed. This report led to the opening of a file at the State Attorney’s property crimes unit.
The following day, the property crimes unit arrived at Insurgente’s Zona Rio complex to seize the property. Tags on the property warn of a maximum two-year prison sentence for trespassers, as detailed by Article 316 of the Baja state’s penal code.
The seizure comes in the heels of multiple attempts to shut down the brewery by state and local authorities, reportedly coming from Baja governor Jaime Bonilla, whose brother Alberto finds the noise coming from the tasting room patio a disturbance at his home across the street.
Insurgente co-owner Ivan Morales says he doesn’t know what last week’s seizure entails. However, he once again remarked this is another series of lies and continued abuse of power to justify acts committed against his business by local and state agencies in recent months.
“They say we release gases which damage the atmosphere, which isn’t true. And second of all, they didn’t even enter the brewery to confirm for themselves,” Morales said to Zeta, adding that there is a yearly report on emissions coming from the brewery’s cooking equipment, which the undertaking authorities hold copies of.
He shared the organic matter found in the plastic containers is the malt which is cooked during the brewing process, which is given away to a rancher in Rosarito to feed his animals.
“They shut us down again on a Monday, and he came on Tuesday, so he couldn’t pick it up,” Morales stated.
Legal pressure was first levied against Insurgente in October 2019, when Tijuana authorities closed down the property citing alleged irregularities in paperwork with the city. This first shutdown left several tanks of unfinished beer to waste away.
Morales and his brother Damian got the closure repealed by producing documents to prove its proper zoning and licensing. Insurgente’s ownership has had the right paperwork filed since 2012.
City zoning personnel red tagged the property on December 26, a day after the site’s tasting room reopened to the public. Through a release, municipal authorities said the property wasn’t fit to house an industrial-scale beer making operation and had irregularities in its environmental impact report.
On the morning of January 13, governor Bonilla made the claim Insurgente acquired all permits to operate its property through “influence abuse” with members of past administrations.
Insurgente responded to these claims through a release denying the claims, and stating all permits were “obtained regularly, as common residents without the use of favors or influence, as held by governor Bonilla.”
“Why does the governor voice his opinion and make claims about issues related to the Municipality of Tijuana? Why has governor Bonilla spent months insisting on shutting down our business no matter what?” Insurgente’s release asks.
As the battle between the independent brewery and state and local authorities unfolds, Morales shared he is finding legal resources to continue fighting back.