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Alaska alcohol industry wants home deliveries, to-go alcohol sales during the pandemic

(KEVN)
Published: Apr. 8, 2020 at 6:10 PM AKDT
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The Alaska alcohol industry is calling on the governor to allow curbside pickups of sealed beer and wine and carefully regulated home alcohol deliveries during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a meeting of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board Wednesday afternoon, members considered which proposals to send to the governor’s office. By a narrow margin, curbside pickups of sealed beer and wine was approved but the governor still needs to suspend certain alcohol statutes for the measure to be allowed.

Jeff Turner, a spokesperson for the governor, said the governor was looking thoroughly into the idea and will make a decision soon.

The exact definition of curbside pickups still needs to be clarified but it would allow bars and restaurants to sell sealed beer and wine for customers to take home. Under current statutes, bars and restaurants can’t sell alcohol during the pandemic as patrons can’t drink onsite.

The idea of restaurants and bars delivering alcohol to homes, possibly along with food, was not approved by the board and will be discussed in an emergency meeting two weeks from now.

Glenn Brady, the ABC Board chair, said he was uneasy about the idea of home delivery of alcohol, citing a perceived risk to public safety. “I believe very personally, there are too many unknowns and potentials for abuse,” he said.

Jessica Brown, an attorney at Holland & Knight, said many other states have loosened alcohol restrictions during the pandemic. Allowing restaurants to deliver wine and beer alongside meals could increase revenue during a perilous time for the industry.

“It would increase sales of their food products,” Brown said.

Sarah Oates, the president of the Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association, spoke to the board and said it was imperative to help the food and beverage industry survive. “I think this is a very extraordinary time in history, we have to be willing to do everything we can to help our licensees,” she said.

By the end of March, 14% of restaurants across Alaska say they will close their doors permanently due to the economic impacts of COVID-19, according to a poll conducted by CHARR. That number is expected to rise.

Democratic Fairbanks Rep. Adam Wool also sent a letter to the ABC board asking that bar licensing fees be pushed back by a year. Wool, a former bar owner, said the cost of licensing fees for bars varies but it’s roughly $2,500 every two years for bars with a single room.

The ABC board didn’t approve Wool’s proposal, citing a possible loss of revenue.

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