Distillery cocktail rules back to the drawing board
April 12, 2018
The Alaska Alcohol Beverage Control Board’s January direction to distilleries to serve spirits and mixers in separate containers was quashed last week after the agency failed to provide adequate public notice.
Alaska statute requires such proposed actions to be published in a newspaper of general circulation. The ABC Board published its notice in the Anchorage Press, the city’s alternative weekly newspaper that isn’t considered a statewide publication.
“We are required to repost the notice of the regulation’s public comment period, take additional public comment, and bring the regulation project back to the board for reconsideration at the next meeting,” ABC Board Director Erika McConnell wrote.
Distilleries can now only serve beverages with ingredients they manufacture, reverting back to a policy enforced last fall after the ABC board reinterpreted statutory language that limits a distillery’s product to a “spirit made or distilled in the licensed facility.”
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 argues her business is already regulated to prevent them from becoming bars, which was the intent behind the initial rules created in 2014. 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 seating.
Shade said Port Chilkoot Distillery hasn’t served drinks and mixers in separate glasses because they were waiting for the regulation to go into effect. “I think a trained professional should be serving a complete presentation of the product,” Shade said. “We’ve had a wide range of feedback or responses from customers. It’s mostly confusion, not knowing where it stands, thinking it’s ridiculous they’d have to mix their own flavoring ingredients.”
The board meets again in June to rehash the issue and take public comment. The board received more than 500 public comments in January when it voted on the new interpretation. The Haines Borough Assembly sent a letter in support of distilleries’ right to serve cocktails despite one local bar owner’s objection.
House Bill 269, sponsored by Rep. Chris Tuck, would allow distilleries to serve mixed drinks. The bill is currently in a House committee but has not yet been heard.