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

Assembly supports cocktails at distilleries

 

March 15, 2018 | View PDF



The Haines Borough Assembly voted unanimously on Tuesday to forward a letter of support to the Alaska Legislature for a bill that would allow distilleries to again serve cocktails.

The letter comes after the Alcohol Beverage Control Board changed a state regulation in January 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, leaving customers to do the work of mixing their cocktails.

The new definition comes after ABC board director Erika McConnell instructed enforcement investigators that “the service and or sale of mixed drinks/cocktails must cease as it is not permitted by statute” after investigating a complaint out of Juneau last year.

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.

Pioneer Bar owner Christy Tengs Fowler wrote a letter opposing the bill to the legislature. She also chastised the assembly for its support of distilleries’ rights to serve cocktails.

“Did not one of you think how inappropriate it was to weigh in on this issue?” Tengs Fowler asked the assembly in a letter. “Did you consider the point of view of beverage dispensary permit holders in Haines, who have kept locals working for decades and contributed millions of dollars in sales tax?”

Tengs Fowler said competition from distilleries and breweries cuts into her bottom line and devalues her beverage dispensary permit.

The assembly did not address Tengs Fowler’s letter in the meeting.

Port Chilkoot Distillery owner Heather Shade maintains distilleries are already regulated to keep them from becoming bars. State statute allows distilleries to serve three ounces of “the distillery’s product” per person a day. Distilleries must refrain from providing live entertainment, seats at the counter or bar, and must open after 9 a.m. and close no later than 8 p.m.

House Bill 269 is currently being reviewed in the House Labor & Commerce Committee.

“All it does is clarify the (original) intent of the bill and that was to say, ‘yes we can mix flavoring ingredients with our spirits,” Shade told the assembly.

 
 

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