In this file photo from Sept. 14, 2017, a large still is a centerpiece in the tasting room at the Amalga Distillery at Franklin and Second Streets in downtown Juneau. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

In this file photo from Sept. 14, 2017, a large still is a centerpiece in the tasting room at the Amalga Distillery at Franklin and Second Streets in downtown Juneau. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: Proposed restrictions on tasting rooms make no sense

Alaska’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board seems rather annoyed by the success of brewery and distillery tasting rooms in the state.

  • Wednesday, September 18, 2019 7:00am
  • Opinion

Alaska’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board seems rather annoyed by the success of brewery and distillery tasting rooms in the state.

How else to explain the board’s strange and ridiculous fixation on preventing people from having fun — or perhaps even a wholesome experience — while in the presence of alcohol?

We’ve had craft brewery and distillery tasting rooms for several years now, and I don’t recall any problems with people singing, schmoozing at the bar or dancing on the ceiling. But now, for no discernable reason, the board has decided to add a new regulation prohibiting (1) festivals; (2) games and competitions; (3) classes; (4) parties not limited to specific invited guests; (5) presentations or performances; and (6) just about anything else that is advertised to the general public.

I don’t get it: Why is the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board opposed to classes? Don’t they believe in education? Does the focus always have to be on alcohol exclusively, with no other context allowed? What have they got against festivals? Do they object to people enjoying themselves while drinking? If they were socially responsible, not just shilling for the industry establishment, they would welcome the news that some consumers of alcohol have loftier goals than simply getting buzzed.

Here’s the thing: Many members of the public, myself included, enjoy having alternatives to traditional bars … and we don’t concern ourselves with what the licenses cost. We like being able to drop into a clean, well-appointed place for a drink before dinner and bask in the daylight streaming through the windows. And when we want to visit a traditional bar, we like being able to do that too. I visit bars sometimes — in fact, I’m sitting in one as I write this. It’s not an either/or proposition.

So why can’t I have an open-invitation birthday bash at a brewery if I want? I think people should have the right to choose the kind of entertainment experience they desire at any given time without being second-guessed by some government bureaucracy. That’s not how the law is written currently — it may not even be practicable, given human nature — but it’s a good guiding principle and a goal to shoot for that this proposal misses by a wide margin.

Public comment on this proposed regulation can be submitted via email to amco.regs@alaska.gov. I have already written and told them (politely) what I think. I encourage anyone reading this to do the same. You have until Oct. 4.


• John Roxburgh is a retired State of Alaska employee who has lived in Juneau since 1996. He likes beer. My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.


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