JUNEAU, Alaska — An agreement was reached over drinks between a bar association and a brewing association in Alaska that could rewrite alcohol laws and change how people enjoy their beverages across the state.
The agreement produced a bill that would bring changes for brewery, winery and distillery tasting rooms, including clarification on which events could be held on their premises, KTUU-TV reported.
The Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association (CHARR), the biggest trade association representing bars, and the Brewers Guild of Alaska, an association representing breweries, came to the agreement this week after yearslong conflict over the difference in licenses prices between bar and brewery owners.
The bill would increase the time tasting rooms could stay open from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., maintain daily drink limits in tasting rooms, allow venues to hold four live music concerts each year and set rules in place so fundraisers, brewery tours and art shows would be in statute and could not be changed by regulation.
"It reflects eight years of hard work," Brewers Guild of Alaska President Lee Ellis said.
Alaska CHARR "proudly offers its full support," President Sarah Oates said.
The bill was voted out of the Senate Finance Committee and will next head to the Senate for a full vote.
"We sat down, had a beer, came to common ground, made some compromises, and we’re all happy with what the bill looks like now," said Evan Wood, the co-owner of Devil’s Club Brewing in Juneau.
Legislation would also increase limits on new breweries opening in the state unless given an exemption by the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Board.
"What’s always caused the wedge has been that friction between new breweries and existing license holders," bill sponsor and Republican state Sen. Peter Micciche said.
Bar owners often pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a license and many have resented breweries serving alcohol after paying much less for their licenses, Micciche said. Brewery owners have argued that the cost of buying manufacturing equipment is also expensive.
The bill could have a huge impact on bar owners, said Republican state Rep. Louise Stutes in opposition to the bill. But if CHARR, the Brewers Guild and the public safety community are onboard, she said she won’t oppose it.