Big Changes on the Horizon for Alcohol Licensing in Alaska

Holland & Knight LLP

Holland & Knight LLP

[co-author: Isabella Granucci]

Recently signed legislation in Alaska promises to upend the alcohol industry and rework the state's licensing structure.

On June 16, 2022, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed into law Senate Bill 9 – a comprehensive rewrite of the state's alcohol licensing statute, Title 4. This bill aims to modernize much of the state's nearly 40-year-old alcohol laws. However, many of the changes, including the vaunted end of Alaska's "bar wars," will not become effective for another two years, ostensibly to provide Alaska's Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC), acting through the Alcohol & Marijuana Control Office (AMCO), time to develop implementing regulations, as well as providing the industry time to adjust and comply. For example, areas of the law relating to changes in tasting rooms, population caps, license types, and direct-to-consumer sales will not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2024. The same is true of licensing endorsements created to cover more licensed premises and uses. As the implementation date nears, and AMCO has promulgated regulations interpreting and implementing the statutes, Holland & Knight will provide further updates on specifics of the changes.

Key Changes in Effect Now

In the meantime, some elements of the law are already in effect as of June 17, 2022. These include:

  • changes to the procedure for home rule cities, first class cities and unified municipalities (Anchorage) to petition ABC to increase restaurant or eating place license caps;
  • the ability for ABC to issue licenses to government entities and tribal organizations;
  • restrictions on renewal of licenses based on public convenience;
    • such licenses may now be converted to restaurant or eating place licenses or, if appropriate, beverage dispensary licenses.

Next Steps

The bulk of changes are still forthcoming and will depend, in part, on ABC's interpretation and implementation in the next two years.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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