State regulators reject new limits on organized events at breweries and distilleries

Haines Brewing co-owner Paul Wheeler speaks to customers in the brewery’s tasting room. (Photo by Emily Files/KHNS)

Brewers and distillers can continue to host parties, classes and events such as First Friday in their tasting rooms.

On Tuesday, Alaska’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board rejected a regulation change that would have prohibited the use of breweries and distilleries as venues for organized events.

The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board’s decision came after an outpouring of public opposition to the change.

According to the board’s chair Bob Klein, over 1,000 pages of comments were submitted, but only four written comments supported the proposed change to state regulations.

“Breweries, distilleries, wineries have been very well accepted by the public. There’s no question about it,” Klein said.

Under current state regulations, live entertainment, gaming and recreational opportunities are prohibited at breweries and distilleries.

In August, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board announced a proposal to clarify the definition of gaming and recreational opportunities. The new definition would have prohibited the use of tasting rooms as a venue for classes, performances, parties, festivals and other social gatherings advertised to the public.

According to a memo from Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office director Erika McConnell, the change aimed to better reflect that brewery and distillery licenses are for manufacturers, not retailers.

Control Board Vice Chair Glenn Brady said that while he didn’t support the proposed change, he felt that regulations for brewers and distillers should be different from bars.

“It was not the intent for manufacturers to become taprooms. The compromises that are articulated in the current statute were hard-fought in an effort to maintain a semblance of order. Which is incumbent upon us as a board to maintain,” Brady said.

Board member Sara Erickson disagreed. She felt that distillers and brewers had been disproportionately regulated by the state.

“I’m very open to changes in Title 4 and offering less restrictions on these as I believe the public really wants this,” Erickson said. “And as a governing board, we have to take notice of that and not just ignore it and say, ‘That’s the law we wrote 100 years ago and we’re going to stick with that.’ No, we evolve and change.”

Ultimately, the board voted unanimously against pursuing a new definition to prohibit social events at tasting rooms in breweries and distilleries.

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