Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Distillery patrons to mix their own drinks


January 25, 2018

Pending the Lt. Governor’s signature, Port Chilkoot Distillery customers will soon have to mix their own drinks after the Alcohol Beverage Control Board changed a state regulation Tuesday that redefines a “distilleries product.”

The new definition limits such a product to a “spirit made or distilled in the licensed facility.” The changed regulation stipulates that distilleries may provide non-alcoholic products, but can’t combine them with spirits.

The action comes after a complaint to the state regulatory office sparked an investigation.

The beverage control board later voted 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.”

The Alaska Department of Law upheld that reinterpretation.

Proponents of the change argue that distilleries have become de facto bars and that licensees aren’t required to pay for expensive beverage dispensary licenses.

Port Chilkoot Distillery owner Heather Shade says her business is already regulated to prevent them from becoming bars. Distilleries may only serve three ounces of alcohol to a single customer and must close by 8 p.m. They are not allowed to provide entertainment or barstools.

“The ABC Board acted out of ignorance and foolishness and the result is this absurd policy,” Shade said after the board meeting. “The meeting was a joke. They completely disregarded all public comments, not even taking the time to read them, and they bumbled around with the regulation-some of them not even knowing what it said or meant before voting on it.”

The board received more than 500 comments about the issue. McConnell estimated that 80 to 90 percent of those comments supported distilleries’ rights to serve cocktails. The Haines Borough Assembly submitted a resolution in December supporting Shade’s distillery.

Pioneer Bar owner Christy Tengs said there is competition between bars and distilleries, but she disagreed with the ABC board’s decision because nothing changed.

“It’s asinine,” Tengs said. “They’re just trying to get around making a decision.”

A handful of legislators who helped write Alaska distillery law said the intent behind the legislation was to allow the businesses to sell cocktails. The legislature will take up HB 269 this session, which allows distilleries to combine their spirits with mixers and other products. The bill is currently in committee.


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