Alcohol board tries to limit liquor outlets

Posted: Tuesday, September 19, 2000

I certainly understand that Matt Felix in his position with the National Council on Alcoholism was attempting to show (Juneau Empire, Sept. 11) that there are too many liquor outlets in Juneau and in Southeast Alaska. I think few people would disagree. However, the state has not been blind to the need to carefully limit and when possible reduce the number of licensed liquor outlets.

I have worked for the ABC Board for more than 21 years. In my experience, the board has been very concerned about the number of licenses in Alaska and has done a number of things to restrict their issuance in the face of a statutory mandate to create more licenses. Two examples that come to mind occurred in Juneau. In 1981-82, the population of Juneau rose to the point that the statutory quota of one license for each 1,500 people allowed the board to issue another package store license. After taking a significant amount of public testimony the board determined that the quota notwithstanding, there were enough package store licenses in Juneau. The board denied all seven applications. The applicants appealed and the governor appointed a hearing officer to decide the case. The hearing officer determined that the board should have created a new package store license because the quota allowed it and went so far as to select the successful applicant. At that point the board could have agreed, using the excuse that the hearing officer made them do it. Instead they stood their ground. They rejected the hearing officer's decision, held their own administrative hearing and affirmed the denial of the package store license. To this day, no new package store licenses have been issued in Juneau. In a more recent decision the board exchanged a beverage dispensary (cocktail lounge) license at the Fiddlehead Restaurant for one that can only sell beer and wine.

A look at the actual numbers gleaned from the files of the ABC Board discloses that in 1986 Juneau had a population of 28,718. There were 28 licensed bars, 20 licensed restaurants and 16 package stores. Today there are 29 licensed bars, 21 restaurants and 16 package stores in Juneau. The one additional bar is attributable to the construction of two major hotels in the valley.

William R. Roche

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