Proposed changes from the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board could halt state breweries and distilleries from hosting First Friday events, fundraisers, beer dinners and other community gatherings.
Under current state statute, local breweries and distilleries with manufacturing licenses are barred from allowing onsite live entertainment, TVs, pool tables, darts, dancing, video games, game table or “other recreational or gaming opportunities.”
The board is now seeking to clarify what “entertainment” and “other recreational opportunities” mean, according to a July 9 memo from Director of the state Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office Erika McConnell.
“The board directed staff to strengthen the language to better reflect the legislative intent that these licenses are manufacturers, not retailers,” the memo read.
A revised proposal from the board aims to define entertainment and other recreational opportunities as festivals, games and competitions, classes, public parties, presentations or performances and other types of organized social gatherings that are advertised to the general public.
Bill Howell, author of “Alaska Beer: Liquid Gold in the Land of the Midnight Sun” and a professor at the Kenai Peninsula College, said he sees the proposed regulations as more government overreach. Howell said other states, like Maine, find ways to promote their local breweries and distilleries. He said in Alaska the state finds ways to reign in their locally made beer and liquor industry.
“Brewery taprooms serve as a very important community need,” Howell said. “These are good members of the community trying to do positive things for the community.”
Under current regulations for manufacturing licensees, Howell said he wouldn’t be allowed to host a book signing event at the brewery.
The proposed regulations wouldn’t have allowed for the Kenai River Brewing Company to host their August Brewery to Bathroom 0.5K run, benefiting Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society.
Doug Hogue, owner of the Kenai River Brewing Company, said he also sees the proposed regulations as additional government overreach.
“The restrictions will essentially shut down what we do for the community,” Hogue said. “Charity runs we do, events we do for numerous nonprofits — it’s a pretty poor decision by the AMCO board.”
Hogue said residents should contact the Alcohol Beverage Control Board and their local representatives to raise their concerns.
Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Kenai/Soldotna, said he’s working on getting in touch with board members and staff at the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office to better understand the objectives with the proposed clarifications. Micciche said he would support breweries and distilleries.
“Breweries and distilleries are already adequately restricted and in some cases too restricted,” Micciche said. “I’m not interested in more restrictions.”
The proposed change is open to public comment through 4:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4. Residents can email the board at email@example.com to submit comments.