Legislation Signed to Preserve Alaska’s Historic Roadhouses

July 13, 2018


Legislation Signed to Preserve Alaska’s Historic Roadhouses

Senate Bill 45 Also Includes a Bipartisan Compromise to Help Alaska’s Locally Owned Distilleries

Anchorage – Alaska Governor Bill Walker signed legislation today that includes measures to protect the growing hospitality industry in Alaska. Senate Bill 45 includes a provision to allow Alaska’s historic roadhouses to continue operating as they have for decades. The provision was originally included in a bill sponsored by Representative Adam Wool (D-Fairbanks) that passed the Alaska House of Representatives but didn’t pass the Alaska State Senate. In the closing hours of the legislative session, the language to protect Alaska’s historic roadhouses was amended into SB 45, a bill that deals with contractors and home builders.

SB 45 now grandfather’s in 34 businesses to continue operating with a tourism beverage dispensary license. Currently, there are 165 tourism beverage dispensary licenses in Alaska. 122 met all the regulatory requirements for a license. However, 34 of these historic businesses do not because they lack a sufficient number of hotel rooms to accommodate the current population. Prior to 1985, roadhouses only had to have ten rooms. A new interpretation of state law now requires these roadhouses to have up to 50 rooms based on population.

“I couldn’t accept the idea of allowing this new strict interpretation of state statutes to force many of Alaska’s iconic roadhouse to close just because they don’t have enough hotel rooms,” said Rep. Wool. “The best kind of politics is the kind that solves problems, and I want to thank Senator Costello for allowing her bill to be used to solve some problems.”

Prior to the signing of SB 45, many of Alaska’s most historic roadhouses were subject to a new strict interpretation of state law that mandated they have a minimum number of rooms based on population. Because of population growth and the law being changed in 1985, many roadhouses were out of compliance including the Sunrise Inn in Cooper Landing, the Howling Dog in Fairbanks, the Swiss Alaska Inn in Talkeetna, and some that aren’t thought of as roadhouses such as the Mat-Su Resort in Wasilla.

In the waning hours of this year’s legislative session, Rep. Wool was also instrumental in brokering a bipartisan compromise that was inserted into SB 45 to allow Alaska’s new craft distilleries to resume serving mixed drinks in their tasting rooms. The locally owned and operated distilleries were barred for a short time from serving mixed drinks due to an interpretation of state law.

“I was glad to get this issue cleared up. It was ridiculous to serve someone a taste of vodka in one hand and a mixer in the other and tell them they had to mix it themselves to be in compliance with state law,” said Rep. Wool.

That issue has been rectified due to the passage and signing of Senate Bill 45.

For more information, please contact Laura Stidolph in Rep. Wool’s office at (907) 452-6084.


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