JUNEAU, Alaska — State regulators in August told alcohol distilleries that they could only offer small amounts of their distilled products for onsite consumption. That order, however, did not give them latitude to serve cocktails or mixed drinks.
The state was expected to send an advisory to distilleries on Wednesday warning them that serving such drinks is in violation of state statute.
However, this may not be the last word. The state board at its last meeting also decided to look into the issue further to determine what distillers could add to their product for onsite consumption.
State regulators on Monday said they hadn’t heard of the problem until earlier this summer, even though it has become a familiar practice, The Juneau Empire reported (http://bit.ly/2xvKPXW ).
Alaska distilleries have been allowed to operate tasting rooms since 2014 as long as not more than three ounces (0.1 liters) of the distillery’s product is used each day. But in June, regulators received a complaint about a distillery serving mixed drinks. The Alaska Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office investigated and issued an advisory.
Harriet Milks, the assistant attorney general who advises the alcohol and marijuana control office, said the issue had never been previously addressed by regulators.
“I don’t recall any distillery coming to the board and saying, ‘We would like to confirm our interpretation that a distillery’s product could be a cocktail,'” Milks said. “The distilleries didn’t bring this to the board’s attention.”
Cynthia Franklin, former director of the state Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office, said a main focus when she took the job in 2014 was to determine how the distillery law allowing tasting rooms should be applied.
And while things like a ban on TVs and live entertainment in distilleries were addressed, the issue of cocktails and mixed drinks never came up.
“Nobody brought it to me,” Franklin said. “Not enforcement, not distillers, nobody.”
Heather Shade, head of the Alaska Distillers Guild, said distilleries have been operating under the assumption that what they were doing was legal. They’re seeking a legal interpretation of their own and are preparing to fight the state’s interpretation.
Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com