Last month the Alcohol Beverage Control Board voted 3-1 to order distillery tasting rooms to stop serving mixed drinks.
The decision came after distilleries had been selling mixed drinks in their tasting rooms for three years. Some bar owners complained, and CHARR, the Cabaret, Restaurant and Retailers Association, complained that distilleries were becoming "de facto bars" — and thus competition. Low-key tasting rooms could become under-the-radar rivals.
That complaint is a stretch. By law, distilleries can sell no more than 3 ounces of their own products, and only until 8 p.m. Further, they can't have bar stools, live music or TV screens. These are fair limits that argue against "de facto bar" status, protect the investments of bar owners and still allow distilleries to market and promote their spirits.
This looks liked a case of bar owners who don't want anyone cutting into happy hours, even on a limited basis, and thus they want to limit consumer choice. This isn't a public-interest decision. It's a special-interest decision.
So now we're left with an absurd rule. No mixed drinks, distillers, despite the fact that that's how many people drink your products. But you can serve separate glasses of gin and tonic. Good thing Alaskans are self-reliant.
BOTTOM LINE: Revisit the rules; mix the drink.