Senate Bill 9 (SB9) is a much-needed overhaul of Alaska’s liquor laws that 120 stakeholders have worked on for more than 10 years.
The changes to SB 9, which benefit current breweries with extended two-hour opening hours and four live entertainment events per year, come at a direct cost. SB 9 will effectively put an end to the creation of new breweries with tasting rooms across Alaska.
Over five years ago, we started Grace Ridge Brewing in Homer. We love the opportunity to be a valuable part of Homer for locals as well as tourists. We benefit our community by being family friendly, supporting local non-profit organizations with our advice and fundraising, displaying local art, supporting a weekly run or walk as well as a knitting group. We also serve great beer and our craft beer drinkers love to come back.
Last year we invested $1.3 million in a new building because we wanted to continue being part of our community. We have worked hard and built a successful business within the current confines of the brewery. New and existing breweries, wineries and distilleries support other businesses, artists, non-profit organizations and a myriad of suppliers, which translates into increased profits in our national and local economies.
I ask the Legislative Assembly to maintain the current population limits for breweries, wineries and distilleries to ensure that others have the same opportunity we had to open a small business. SB 9 removes this opportunity.
Currently, there may be one liquor manufacturing business with licensed tasting room per 3,000 residents in a city or borough. Using 2022 population figures, Homer, a city of 6,264, has three licenses in total and two are in use. For Fairbanks – population 29,330 – there are 10 total licenses available and only three of them are in use. For Juneau – 31,785 – there are 11 total licenses available and only three are in use. In Soldotna and Kodiak – 4,815 and 5,468, respectively – there are two total licenses available and only one in use. If SB 9 passes with the 1 per 12,000 restriction, each of these communities, as well as Sitka, Wasilla and Ketchikan will have no future tap room licenses available. This political choice easily leads to local monopolies.
The bill does not limit the manufacture of beer, but removes the remaining licenses available for taps. The sponsor says SB 9 offers “incredible opportunities” for future breweries. These opportunities are already available. Twelve breweries have purchased a beverage dispensary license with a brewery license and eight breweries have restaurant licenses. These additional licenses allow these establishments to not be limited to the 36 ounce limit per person per day, selling only what is made on site with limited hours of operation and room activity restrictions. of faucets.
Alaskan breweries make great beer. Current statutes have allowed this industry to grow by $330 million a year. This bill stops future growth in the brewery’s current business model and their product is served in their tap room. These spaces are community gathering places that locals and tourists alike appreciate. This bill does a disservice to small communities in Alaska. Breweries with taprooms invest in their community, create year-round jobs, pay local taxes, are family-friendly, and provide the opportunity to start a small business in that community.
Entrepreneurs in Alaska should have the opportunity to start a new brewery. Beer-loving Alaskans should have the opportunity to benefit from competition between breweries, including new breweries that compete with current established breweries.