Review puts 11 peninsula businesses’ alcohol licenses up in the air

A review of a 32-year-old alcohol license statute has left 11 Kenai Peninsula businesses with their alcohol licenses up in the air.

The Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office, the state office within the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development that oversees the various types of alcohol licenses, recently reviewed the law regarding tourism alcohol licenses in the state. Tourism alcohol licenses are a type of license that specifically includes businesses that encourage tourism, according to Alaska statute. Typically, these businesses are hotels or lodges.

The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board asked the department staff in 2016 to review the statute related to population limitations on tourism licenses specifically. The review, released Sept. 13, identified 34 of 165 tourism licenses that are not in compliance with the population limitations, based on the number of hotel rooms they have available compared to the population in the municipalities they are in.

“All 34 licenses that do not meet the statute do not have a sufficient number of hotel rooms,” Erika McConnell, the director of the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office, wrote in a memo to the board. “Of those 34 licenses, 76 percent have half or fewer the number of rooms required.”

On the Kenai Peninsula, 11 businesses don’t meet the requirements, despite having had their licenses for a number of years and applying to renew them, which requires review by the board. Three are inside city limits and eight are in the unincorporated borough.

Alaska bases its allocations of alcohol licenses on population in a municipality or borough. The statute for tourism licenses, which was enacted in 1985, requires 10 rental rooms if the population is less than 1,501, 20 if it is 1,501-2,000, 25 if it is 2,501-5,000, 30 if it is 5001-15,000, 35 if it is 15,001-25,000; 40 if it is 25,001-50,000, and 50 if it is greater than 50,000, according to the statute. The populations are defined as “the population of the established village, incorporated city, unified municipality, or population area.”

McConnell said in an email that the board members requested the information about compliance and wasn’t sure what the board would do with it during the upcoming Nov. 13 meeting.

“We are doing research on the status of about 34 beverage dispensary – tourism licenses that are out of compliance with the current statutory requirements,” she said. “This research is attempting to determine their compliance with statutes over time; i.e., were they compliant when originally licensed or last transferred.”

Among the local non-compliant businesses is the hotel, bar and restaurant Inlet View Lodge, situated on a hill above Ninilchik. Its owner Debbie Cary told the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly at its Oct. 31 meeting that the re-evaluation lumped all the population of the borough together outside the city limits, even though vast tracts of space separate the unincorporated communities outside city limits. She asked the borough assembly to support the businesses with their licenses at risk if the change goes forward.

“We got notification this week that that number has changed to 40 rooms, if you live outside the city limits,” she said. “…They’re going to decide whether to reissue our license or not allow us to transfer our license if we decide to sell in the future.”

Former borough mayor Mike Navarre, who finished at the borough Sunday and began his new job as the commissioner of the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development Monday, said at the assembly meeting he planned to look into the issue.

The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board will meet Nov. 13 in Anchorage.

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

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