Ballot initiative would lift restrictions on Alaska brewpubs

Posted: Wednesday, October 10, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A popular brewpub is launching a ballot initiative that would lift the production cap placed on Alaska brewpubs and allow them to own restaurants and bars.

The Moose's Tooth Brewing Co.'s ''The Right to Brew'' ballot initiative would relicense brewpubs as breweries and lift the 75,000 gallon production cap. The bill would allow brewpubs to sell their products at two offsite locations.

The bill would allow brewpubs to operate under an inexpensive beer and wine license as opposed to a full liquor license, which can cost upward of $150,000. And the initiative would increase from 5 gallons to 8 gallons the amount of beer brewpubs can sell to individual customers, allowing for the sale of pony kegs.

Proponents must gather 28,783 signatures from registered voters to get on the Nov. 2002 statewide election ballot. Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer certified the ballot initiative Monday.

Moose's Tooth co-owner Matt Jones said the business has reached its production cap for the year and was forced to pull five of its beers from the menu. An option to have a Portland brewery take over production and ship Moose's Tooth beer to Alaska proved too costly.

Jones said the initiative is modeled on Oregon law.

''Basically, every neighborhood in Portland has a little brewpub. In Oregon, you can basically run any combination you want.''

The brewing company will be passing out the ballot initiative to an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 people a week that patronize the Moose's Tooth Pub and the Bear Tooth Theatrepub in Anchorage.

Kac'e McDowell, executive director of the Cabaret Hotel and Restaurant Association (CHAR), said the organization is not opposed to allowing Moose's Tooth to brew as much beer as it wants. CHAR is more concerned with allowing brewpubs to simultaneously hold restaurant and bar licenses.

''It lends to unfair competition,'' McDowell said.

Glenn Brady, owner of the Silver Gulch Brewing and Bottling Co. in Fox, agreed. He produces about 3,500 barrels a year.

''They are competing with me in a field where I can't compete with them. It is against the law for me to sell beer retail over the bar,'' Brady said. ''We are two very distinct businesses and I would prefer we remain so.''

State Rep. Andrew Halcro, R-Anchorage, blames opposition from Alaska's liquor industry groups for keeping a bill he sponsored with similar aims from being voted on. The bill stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee last legislative session.

Halcro said bars and restaurants are threatened by the growing popularity of brewpubs, which arrived on the Alaska scene in the mid-1990s.

''We all have to compete in the open marketplace,'' Halcro said. ''The bottom line is it needs to be free enterprise. That is the American way.''

SJ. Klein, owner of the 1,500 barrel-a-year Borealis Brewery in Anchorage, said Alaska over-regulates beer brewers. It would be better to allow the marketplace to dictate what happens, he said.

''The fact that you make beer in the state of Alaska makes you a second class citizen,'' he said. ''Show me another manufacturer that isn't allowed to make a certain amount because they're successful.''

Alaskan Brewing Co. spokeswoman Kristi Monroe said the Juneau-based brewery -- the largest in the state at annual production of 81,000 barrels -- is not concerned about the initiative. The company does not own any brewpubs.

''We really have our hands full running our own business,'' she said. ''We really want Alaska to make good beer and more power to them.''

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