Borough considers amending liquor license setback

The borough assembly will take up a proposed change to the Kenai Peninsula Borough code requiring liquor stores to be at least 500 feet from a church or school.

The borough has long maintained rules more stringent than the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, which only requires 200 feet of walking distance.

The borough currently requires 500 feet as the crow flies and has required up to 1,000 feet in the past, according to assembly member Dale Bagley, who introduced the ordinance Tuesday evening.

Bagley said the question arose when the assembly held its meeting in Homer in September when a store owner applied for a liquor license transfer to Ninilchik, where the store would be within 500 feet of two churches and a school.

“Due to our code, we had to vote down that proposal, but we actually had an assembly member vote for it, even though he really couldn’t or shouldn’t without good reasons,” Bagley said. “But it really brought up some good discussion.”

Bagley questioned whether the 500 feet was arbitrary and suggested dropping the requirement to 300 feet of walking distance, which would still set the borough’s requirement slightly higher than the state’s, he said.

The borough enacted a process for protesting liquor licenses in 1985 requiring 500 feet, but later enacted an ordinance allowing for exceptions as long as the liquor licensed store would not interfere with the access, flow of traffic or operations of the school, church or playground.

Bagley said there were only two other communities that required more than the state minimum — Valdez, which requires 500 feet, and Bethel, which requires 300 feet.

“There would only be three communities, counting us, that are different than the distance that the ABC board requires as well as different from the walking pattern that the ABC board has,” Bagley said.

Assembly member Kelly Cooper asked why the assembly would modify the code now, especially while the state is deliberating its regulations on the marijuana industry.

“I understand it’s a discussion we should have, but I’m not understanding why we should be looking at that at this point,” Cooper said.

Although the ordinance is not set for public hearing until the Dec. 8 assembly meeting, several people protested the proposed ordinance Tuesday evening.

Debbie Cary, part owner of the Inlet View Restaurant & Bar in Ninilchik, said she protested the change because it could allow more liquor stores in communities and increase access for youth.

“I know you may think that I am protesting this because I do not want more competition,” Cary said. “I assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. For me, this is about the children.”

Sabrina Ferguson, a Ninilchik teenager, testified against the ordinance, saying teenagers often get alcohol by giving money to someone older than 21 or from another illegitimate source and said increasing access could only make the problem worse.

“Drug and alcohol use is one of the biggest concerns when it comes to peer pressure,” Ferguson said. “Everyone knows that if a teenager wants something, they will find a way to get it. By adding more locations to a closer proximity, we are only making it easier.”

Bob Ferguson, also a part owner of the Inlet View Restaurant & Bar and Sabrina Ferguson’s father, attended but chose not to testify, saying that Cary and Sabrina Ferguson had “basically covered it.”

The assembly voted to introduce the ordinance for discussion in December.

Bagley said his goal for the ordinance was to open the discussion because the question had been raised as to whether the current rules were fair in the protest over the liquor license in September.

“I think it’ll be a good discussion to have, and at the end of the day, I’m okay with whatever the assembly decides,” Bagley said. “But we need to talk about it just so that we’re on board with future proposals from around the borough.”

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizbaeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Triumvirate Theatre is seen on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021 in Nikiski, Alaska. The building burned in a fire on Feb. 20. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion 
Triumvirate Theatre is seen on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021 in Nikiski, Alaska. The building burned in a fire on Feb. 20.
Triumvirate relief fund goes live

The theater burned down on Feb. 20

RN Rachel Verba (right) administers a dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to Dr. Chris Michelson (left) on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Bruce Richards/CPH)
More than 1 in 5 Alaskans have at least 1 vaccine dose

Alaska continues to lead the nation in vaccine rollout

Daniel Saxton demonstrates how to use a draw knife during the Kenai Wildlife Refuge’s remote Speaker Series on cabins on Friday, Feb. 26 in Kenai, Alaska. (Screenshot)
‘Everyone has a cabin’: Refuge explores history and nature of public use cabins on the Kenai

Dan Saxton also demonstrated how to use a draw knife during the presentation

Tracy Silta (left) administers a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to Melissa Linton during a vaccine clinic at Soldotna Prep School on Friday, Feb. 26 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
District vaccine clinic sees large turnout

The clinic was targeted specifically to KPBSD staff

Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire 
An investigation into a complaint from an inmate at Lemon Creek Correctional Center, shown above, exposed issues with the Alaska Department of Corrections Dental Services Program.
Report: Overhaul needed for DOC’s dental program

An investigation finds the corrections department ‘unreasonably delayed’ care for an inmate

Traffic moves toward Sterling along the Sterling Highway shortly after the roadway reopened. A fatal crash closed the highway for several hours Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Sterling Highway crash kills Soldotna boy

The accident closed a section of the Sterling Highway for several hours Wednesday.

A legislative aide enters the Alaska State Capitol as a worker clears snow from in front of the building on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, in Juneau, Alaska. The Alaska House speaker announced on Wednesday, Feb. 24, that a House member had tested positive for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)
House disrupted after positive COVID-19 test

Alaska House Republicans identified the lawmaker as Rep. Mike Cronk of Tok, a member of their caucus.

Dr. Anne Zink addresses members of the media during a remote press conference on Thursday, Feb. 25 in Alaska. (Screenshot)
Nearly 150,000 Alaskans are vaccinated; Dunleavy ‘doing well’

103,120 pairs of vaccine, or about 206,240 doses, were allocated to Alaska for the month of March.

Most Read