Tables and chairs are set up outside of Everything Bagels on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn OՈara/Peninsula Clarion)

Outdoor dining expands in Soldotna

Opportunities to dine outdoors in Soldotna just became a lot more plentiful.

That’s thanks to a program offered by the City of Soldotna that offered grants of up to $15,000 to city restaurants to expand, establish or enhance their outdoor dining spaces. The city spent about $155,000 on grants to businesses through the program, which also saw about $80,000 in private investment by those businesses.

The Soldotna City Council approved up to $250,000 for the program earlier this year, to be paid for with leftover CARES Act funds. The City of Soldotna received around $10 million in CARES Act money total, most of which was put toward grant opportunities for businesses and nonprofits and direct relief to city residents. In all, the city awarded grants to 11 businesses before the program’s end earlier this month.

The program was meant to incentivize the creation of more outdoor dining spaces that would allow patrons to support local restaurants in a way that was safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Funds could be used for the purchase of tables and chairs, umbrellas and lighting, for example.

In addition to offering more well-ventilated spaces for people during the pandemic, Soldotna Associate Planner Jennifer Hester said the program also responded to some of the city’s bigger aspirations.

“The program not only had a direct COVID-19 benefit, but also aligned with the City’s long-term goal of supporting a vibrant and entertaining downtown district,” Hester wrote in a Sept. 16 memo to the city council.

At Everything Bagels in Soldotna, cafe-style tables and chairs now line the outside of the building. Owner Pamela Parker said the expansion has allowed her to almost double the capacity of her business and that she often sees people sitting outside on sunny days.

“I think it was a great push by the city,” Parker said, adding that the grant enabled her business to serve customers in a safer space.

Parker was a member of the Soldotna City Council when the program was introduced and said she abstained from voting because she knew, as a business owner, that she would be applying for the program.

Parker said she, like other program participants, experienced supply chain issues that delayed the completion of Everything Bagels outdoor dining spaces, particularly as it related to materials. As winter approaches, she said she hopes to add outdoor heaters to the area so that it will still be comfortable when it is cold outside.

Soldotna Director of Economic Development and Planning John Czarnezki said Thursday the City of Soldotna extended the program’s deadline specifically in response to those supply chain shortages. Work at Everything Bagels, for example, began in May and concluded at the end of August, Parker said.

Czarnezki said Soldotna’s program was modeled after similar offerings in the Lower 48, and that the city plans to build on the accomplishments of the program into 2022 by creating an interactive map that will allow summer patrons to find places that offer outdoor dining accommodations.

Other program recipients included Addie Camp, Don Jose’s, Kenai River Brewing Company, Lucy’s Market, Pad Thai Café, Odie’s Deli, Pizza Boys, St. Elias Brewing Company, The Catch Restaurant and Bar, and Yo! Tacos.

More information about the use of Soldotna’s CARES Act funds can be found on the city’s website at

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at

More in News

The Alaska State Capitol is seen on Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Legislature modernizes 40-year-old definition of consent in sexual assault cases

‘Alaska took a gargantuan step forward in updating our laws,’ says deputy attorney general

Project stakeholders cut a ribbon at the Nikiski Shelter of Hope on Friday, May 20, 2022, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Stakeholders celebrate opening of Nikiski shelter

The shelter officially opened last December

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks with reporters Thursday about the state’s budget at the Alaska State Capitol. Dunleavy said lawmakers had sent a complete budget, and that there was no need for a special session.
Dunleavy: No need for special session

Governor calls budget “complete”

A magnet promoting the Alaska Reads Act released sits atop a stack of Alaskan-authored and Alaska-centric books. Lawmakers passed the Alaska Reads Act on the last day of the legislative session, but several members of the House of Representatives were upset with the bill, and the way it was passed. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
In last-minute move, Legislature passes early reading overhaul

Rural lawmakers push back on Alaska Reads Act

Graduates wait to receive diplomas during Connections Homeschool’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 19, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Connections honors more than 100 graduates

The home-school program held a ceremony Thursday in Soldotna

Alaska Senate President Peter Micciche, left, and Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, right, meet with reporters in Micciche’s office in the early morning hours of Thursday, May 19, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska, after the Legislature ended its regular session. Micciche, a Republican, and Begich, a Democrat, discussed their working relationship, as well as well as parts of the session they were either pleased with or disappointed with. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)
After House balks at bigger figure, budget OK’d with $3,200 payout per Alaskan

Budget finishes as second-largest in state history by one measure, but Dunleavy could make cuts

Loren Reese, principal at Kenai Alternative High School, gives Oliver Larrow the Mr. Fix It award Wednesday, May 18, 2022, at Kenai Alternative High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Alternative graduates 22, says goodbye to principal

The ceremony included special awards customized for students

Graduates throw their caps into the air at the end of Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Wednesday, May 18, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘We never fell down’

Soldotna High School honors more than 100 graduates

Brandi Harbaugh gives a presentation during a joint work session on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Mill rate decrease, max school funding included in proposed borough budget

The final document is subject to approval by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly

Most Read