Opinion: Bill unfairly targets breweries

By Sherry Stead

Breweries are being unfairly targeted in SB 9 strictly to benefit current alcohol serving establishments and distributors.

Currently Alaska Statutes Sec. 04.11.130, 140 and 170 for Brewery, Winery and Distillery Licenses allow a manufacturer to sell their product manufactured on site in their adjacent tap room. These licenses are 1 per 3,000 population with restricted serving amounts, activities and hours of operation.

The current statutes have allowed Alaska to have a thriving and vibrant brewery scene for locals as well as tourists. There is room for more growth. Tap rooms are gathering spots for friends and families and add value to their community. They create year round jobs, tax revenue, support local non profits and have added last year to our economy 330 million dollars. The brewery business model is a brew house with an adjacent tap room selling their craft brew.

SB 9 removes caps for manufacturing and bi-annual fees go from $1,000 to $1,250. If a brewery wants to sell their product in their tap room they will need a Brewery Retail License for an additional $1,250. These licenses are being restricted 400% to 1 per 12,000 population. All current breweries will be grandfathered in and will be required to purchase an additional license for $1,250 to sell their product. These new licenses keep the same 36 ounce per person per day serving limit, allow a permit for four live entertainment events a year and a two-hour expansion of operating hours.

No other license fees are being increased and some distribution licenses are being decreased in SB 9.

Currently, Juneau has 11 Brewery Licenses allowed per population with four breweries currently licensed, leaving seven available. SB 9 removes all of the current business opportunities for a brewery to have a tap room in every single community in Alaska that currently has a brewery in operation, except Anchorage. Fairbanks, Juneau, Wasilla, Sitka, Ketchikan, Homer, Kodiak, Soldotna, Eagle River, Cordova, Haines, Skagway, Palmer all will have 0 Brewery Retail Licenses available with this new population cap. This is legislating out over 100 new business opportunities as they currently are available across the state. This legislates out competition and sets up monopolies.

The bill sponsor says SB 9 offers “amazing opportunities” for new breweries. These are already available. Twenty breweries have legally purchased BDL, Brew Pub or Restaurant Eating Place Licenses on the secondary market to allow these breweries to not be restricted by the current taproom limitations.

By keeping the current Statutes in Sec. 04.11.130, 140 and 170 with the population cap of 1 per 3,000 every local community has control over the current licenses available. Juneau has 7 available. For a State license, the community must approve the license application. If a community does not want another brewery they can Protest the License application. SB 9 removes that option by removing the licenses available.

This bill does a disservice to our communities and I am urging you to contact your legislator to keep craft brewing opportunities for Made in Alaska and Buy Local for you and our tourists.

• Sherry Stead is co-owner of Grace Ridge Brewing. Stead resides in Homer. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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