Eaglecrest beer and wine sales in flux after license denial from Alcohol Beverage Control Board

Eaglecrest Ski Area's main lodge with ski slopes in the background. (Photo by Adelyn Baxter/KTOO)
The main lodge of Eaglecrest Ski Area on Douglas Island is at the base of the ski slopes rising in the background. (Photo by Adelyn Baxter/KTOO)

The state Alcohol Beverage Control Board has denied an application to begin selling beer and wine at Juneau’s city-owned ski area this season.

Eaglecrest Ski Area partnered with Abby Williams, owner of Louie’s Douglas Inn, and hoped to open the Old Tower Bar in the old lodge this season.

Williams’ application for a recreational site license said the bar would operate seasonally, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday through Monday.

The board voted unanimously Monday to deny the application.

Williams said Tuesday she was surprised by the decision and had already invested a significant amount of time and money into the business plan. She said she had been speaking daily with state regulators.

“If they were going to be this quick to deny the license, you know, why wouldn’t they have stopped the application process at its inception?” Williams said.

In a memo to board members Monday, Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office Director Erika McConnell said the application did not appear to meet the requirements of a recreational site license.

Among the reasons McConnell listed, she wrote that skiing and snowboarding “do not share the attributes of the examples listed in state statute.”

The Juneau Assembly approved the plan to start selling beer and wine at the ski mountain last year. The idea has been part of Eaglecrest’s master plan since 2012. At its meeting Monday, the Assembly waived its right to object to the specific license.

Eaglecrest General Manager Dave Scanlan said they will continue working with Williams. He’s staying optimistic about possible paths forward.

“What the timing’s going to be like? Not too sure, but we’re going to be moving full steam ahead on finishing up our renovation so our space is ready should we get approvals to operate,” Scanlan said.

The hope was for beer and wine sales to make Eaglecrest a more attractive destination.

Recreational site licenses cost $800 per year or $400 per season with a $500 application fee. A restaurant and bar license can cost tens of thousands of dollars because they are limited by population. New businesses typically buy an existing license from someone else.

Williams said her original business plan for the Old Tower Bar did not factor in the cost of buying a restaurant or bar license.

But she said she’s open to looking at all options, especially if Eaglecrest’s plan to become a year-round destination pans out.

“If it was going to be an operation that runs 95 days out of the year, I think that a seasonal, recreational site license was the best way to go,” she said. “But looking at the big picture, maybe a beer and wine license is a good investment.”

Although it seems likely the bar will not be operating this winter, Williams said she still hopes to create something the community will use and enjoy.

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