Just months after the state denying Juneau’s ski area a chance to open a bar on site, the Alaska Legislature might pave the way for the bar to become a reality.
Senate Bill 16, which is mainly focused on preserving the liquor license for the Alaska State Fair, also includes changes to state law that could allow ski areas to serve alcohol.
There has been conversation for years in Juneau about Eaglecrest Ski Area eventually opening up a bar. It looked like the bar — which was set to be called the Old Tower Bar — was going to become a reality until last October when the state Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board voted to reject the ski area’s application.
The reason for the rejection was because ski and snowboard areas are not included in Alaska Statute 04.11.210, which outlines a list of recreational places and events where alcohol sales are allowed. Examples of these events are baseball games and dog sled races. Senate Bill 16, proposed by Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, would add ski and snowboard areas to that list.
Eaglecrest General Manager Dave Scanlan said by phone Wednesday that this bill would address the exact reason the ski area’s application was denied last year.
“It’ll give the clarity that we were looking for and should eliminate any hurdles that might be put before us,” Scanlan said, “and should pave the way for a much smoother process for us going forward.”
The bill passed the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee and now heads to the Senate Finance Committee. If the bill makes it all the way through the Legislature and into law this year, Scanlan said, Eaglecrest could have a bar open next winter.
SB 16 (co-sponsored by Sens. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer and David Wilson, R-Wasilla) slightly expands the types of places that can serve alcohol service. As Micciche said in his testimony to the Labor and Commerce Committee and as he wrote in his sponsor statement, the main aim of the bill is to make sure the Alaska State Fair can continue to serve alcohol.
The Alaska State Fair has been serving alcohol under the recreational site license since 1981, but with the ABC board being more stringent in its reading of state law in recent years, the fair is at risk of losing that licence, Micciche wrote in his sponsor statement. Losing the ability to serve would be “financially devastating” to the fair, Micciche wrote.
In a letter to the Labor and Commerce Committee, Scanlan took a similar angle, saying that it’s getting more difficult for a ski area to make ends meet.
“Running a small community ski area is no small endeavor and due to changing weather patterns, has become more and more financially challenging,” Scanlan wrote. “Having a robust food and beverage program that includes beer and wine sales is one of the primary revenue streams for small community ski areas.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.