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Assembly supports cocktails in letter to state


December 21, 2017

The Haines Borough Assembly is supporting distilleries’ rights to serve cocktails.

The assembly voted unanimously last week to send a letter supporting “the previous understanding of state law by Port Chilkoot Distillery that allows distilleries to serve their distilled spirits mixed with non-alcoholic ingredients as spirits are normally consumed.”

The action comes after the beverage control board voted in September to uphold board director Erika McConnell’s instructions to enforcement investigators that “the service and or sale of mixed drinks/cocktails must cease as it is not permitted by statute.”

McConnell and the majority of the board reinterpreted part of the statute, and said juices and other mixers don’t qualify as a “distillery’s product.” The group is set to vote on a change in the definition next month.

Assembly member Tom Morphet said at last Tuesday’s meeting that the Port Chilkoot Distillery put Haines “on the map in terms of this new industry.”

“It behooves us as a community to support the previous understanding of the law,” Morphet said. “Manufacturing is one area of the economy I think we can all get behind…the previous understanding basically put the distillery on the same foot as the brewery in terms of selling their samples. It’s reasonable.”

Assembly member Brenda Josephson said the assembly should step up for businesses.

“It’s hard in our environment and this is one of the few things we can do that doesn’t cost us money,” Josephson said.

State House Minority Leader Chris Tuck, who worked on the state’s distillery law three years ago, wrote a letter to the board in August saying the law’s intent was to allow the serving of mixed drinks.

“We can assure you there has been no misinterpretation of the statute by the distillers and they are acting in accordance with the Legislature’s intentions,” Tuck wrote, along with eight other legislators who signed the letter. “Considering that many of the products sold by the distillers are intended to be mixed with other ingredients before consumption, it was assumed any sales or free samples would likely be mixed with other ingredients as well.”

Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurants and Retailers Association executive director Dale Fox also helped write the legislation. He told the beverage control board he would not have supported the law if he knew distilleries would become “de facto bars.”

Port Chikoot Distillery owner Heather Shade said distilleries are already regulated to prevent them from operating like a bar. State statute allows distilleries to serve three ounces per person a day of “the distillery’s product.” Distilleries must refrain from providing live entertainment, seats at the counter or bar, and they must close no later than 8 p.m.

The beverage control board will meet again in January to make a decision on draft regulations, which defines “distillery’s product” as spirits distilled or made on the premises.

The assembly’s letter will be included in those comments. Individuals can send comments to the board to


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