Distilleries

A letter drafted by Ursa Major Distilling owner Rob Borland to the Alaska Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office regarding the Alcoholic Beverage Dispensary license statute on mixing alcoholic beverages with non-alcoholic ingredients in the distillery tasting room along the Parks Highway in Ester Friday afternoon, September 15, 2017. Regulations proposed recently by the Alcohol Beverage Control Board would prevent breweries and distilleries from advertising to the public festivals, presentations and myriad social gatherings. 

Proposed regulation changes introduced by the Alcohol Beverage Control Board last week have gotten a mix of feedback in days since; anger and frustration from brewers and distillers; celebration from bar owners who feel their turf is being usurped by smaller tasting rooms; and most recently a harsh criticism from the commissioner of the state department responsible for Alaska’s business world.

The board released the regulation proposal in a public notice last week. Proposed changes include prohibiting breweries and distilleries from allowing festivals, games and competitions, classes, public parties, presentations, performances and other social gatherings advertised to the general public, according to a regulation draft released by the board.

The changes have been proposed to “better reflect the legislative intent that these licenses are manufacturers, not retailers,” according to Erika McConnell, director of the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office.

State law prohibits on-site live entertainment, TVs, pool tables, darts, dancing, video games, game tables or “other recreational or gaming opportunities,” according to current ABC Board regulations.

But some industry officials are concerned with the business

ramifications the regulation changes may have. According to a statement emailed to the News-Miner by Glenn Hoskinson, special assistant to the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development Commissioner Julie Anderson, the department does not support the regulation changes and plans to contact the ABC board to further discuss the issue. 

“We have serious concerns that this regulation is overly restrictive, exceeds the legislature’s intent and does not support the Open for Business initiative. We will be discussing these concerns with the board,” Anderson wrote in a statement sent to the Daily News-Miner. 

ABC Board Chair Bob Klein declined to comment.

The board has been accused of overreaching its bounds with regard to changing regulations by supporters of distilleries and breweries who have argued that changes in laws governing any alcoholic business must be addressed by the Legislature.

Some legislators support a full overhaul of Title 4, the section of law that governs the state’s alcohol industry. 

The Senate passed in a bill in May 2018, sponsored by Soldotna Republican Sen. Peter Micciche, that would have essentially rewritten Title 4, giving the law a much-needed update, in Micciche’s view. 

Senate Bill 76 would have included a section that allowed a manufacturer to own a retail license or beverage dispensary license.

It would require the purchase of multiple licenses, a manufacture license and a beverage dispensary license, but it also would allow distilleries to manufacturer their products on-site and purchase and operate under a normal beverage license as if it were a bar. Ultimately, the bill did not pass, but the topic has garnered discussion in the legislative session since.

Public input on the proposed changes can be emailed to amco.regs@alaska.gov or sent to the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office, 550 W. Seventh Ave., Suite 1600, Anchorage AK 99501.

Public comment will be accepted until 4:30 p.m. Oct. 4.

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter:@FDNMPolitics.