Legislature passes bill allowing Alaska State Fair, ski areas to serve alcohol

The main lodge of Eaglecrest Ski Area on Douglas Island is at the base of the ski slopes rising in the background., pictured here in October 2018. (Photo by Adelyn Baxter/KTOO)

On the last day of its regular 121-day session, the Alaska Legislature passed a bill allowing businesses like the Alaska State Fair and others to continue selling alcohol.

Several business and venues across the state were caught off guard when the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board began denying recreational site license renewals last year, saying they did not meet the criteria in state law.

Senate Bill 16 broadens the state’s legal definition to include places like performing arts centers, bowling alleys and ski areas — many of which had sold alcohol for decades without issue.

“We were very happy with the outcome that the Alaska State Fair was able to be grandfathered in,” said Jerome Hertel, general manager of the Alaska State Fair .

The bill was introduced by Soldotna Republican Sen. Peter Micciche, initially just to address the state fair.

As the bill progressed, more businesses came forward with similar dilemmas.

“The bill started slim, it grew and then went on a diet in the last couple of days,” Micciche said. “So it got back to our original intent, and that was to save businesses that were at risk because of the board’s recent actions on recreational site licenses.”

Juneau Rep. Sara Hannan introduced an amendment Wednesday to include Eaglecrest Ski Area in Juneau.

The alcohol board denied Eaglecrest’s application to sell beer and wine last fall, even though several other ski areas in the state were already selling alcohol.

Hannan said this solution is short term. She said another bill introduced by Micciche this session, Senate Bill 52, is the larger effort to rewrite the state alcohol statute known as Title 4.

The Legislature will revisit SB 52 next year.

Erika McConnell, director of the state Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office, said the alcohol board plans to revisit the denied license renewals at its next meeting after Gov. Mike Dunleavy signs SB 16 into law.

The board’s next meeting is July 9.

Dunleavy spokesman Matthew Shuckerow said the administration is focusing on broad legislation related to crime and the state budget right now and does not know when the bill will be signed.

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