Paskenta Open First Tribally Owned Brewery and Distillery

The Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians recently celebrated the opening of Rock n Brews Restaurant, the first tribal-owned brewery and distillery in California.

For nearly 200 years, alcohol manufacturing on American Indian reservations was prohibited until 2018, when HR 5317 – the Repeal of Prohibition on Certain Alcohol Manufacturing on Indian Lands Act was signed into law.  In 2021, the Paskenta chose to take advantage of the new alcohol manufacturing opportunity and include the creation of a tribally owned brewery and distillery as part of their redevelopment and expansion of the Rolling Hills Casino in Corning, California.

However, in accordance with federal Indian law, the regulation and development of alcohol manufacturing and sales must comply with state licensing processes. This is where Drummond Woodsum was able to help. Tribal Nations attorney Erick Giles led the license negotiations with the State of California on behalf of the Tribe.  The effort to obtain the state alcohol manufacturing and retail sales licenses for the Tribe required a significant amount of education and negotiation with the State of California, including the Alcoholic Beverage Control and Governor’s Office to accommodate state licensing rules to an Indian reservation.

Ultimately, we were able to successfully resolve the tribe’s Tied-House issues with the State to obtain a small craft distiller’s license and a small beer manufacturer’s license. In addition, Drummond Woodsum successfully obtained an agreement from the California Department of Taxation and Fee Administration to accept the Tribe’s position that the brewery and distillery operations qualify as “value-generated” on the reservation and therefore pre-empt state and local taxation.

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