Ben Weagraff from Kenai River Brewing Company works the beer garden at Soldotna Creek Park during the Levitt AMP Soldotna Music Series on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Ben Weagraff from Kenai River Brewing Company works the beer garden at Soldotna Creek Park during the Levitt AMP Soldotna Music Series on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

State board OKs Soldotna request for more restaurant alcohol licenses

Twenty more restaurants in Soldotna will be able to serve alcohol following state approval in April of a city petition.

The approval, handed down by the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board on April 16, quadruples the number of licenses available to Soldotna businesses and was made possible by changes to Alaska’s alcohol laws that went into effect this year.

A business that holds a restaurant or eating place license is authorized to sell brewed beverages and wine to patrons. The business can also serve food and nonalcoholic beverages to patrons under 21 on its premises. There are currently six restaurants or eating places in Soldotna that are licensed to sell alcohol.

The new state laws say a first-class city, such as Soldotna, may petition the board for one or more licenses via resolution approved by its legislative body. The board may issue those licenses if it finds that doing so is in the public interest and if the municipality meets four criteria.

The municipality must serve as a center for commercial activities both in and out of its boundaries and maintain a local law enforcement department. It must also exercise planning or land-use authority and have already met or exceeded its existing license limit.

The resolution submitted to the board must also provide demographic information about the petitioning municipality and demonstrate the public interest in granting more licenses. Soldotna’s resolution also says the additional licenses will stimulate economic growth, enhance local tourism opportunities and more closely align with population ratios.

Between 2018 and 2022, the resolution says, almost 1.5 million people visited Soldotna, including more than 330,000 people in 2022. That’s as compared to its year-round population of about 4,300 people. Soldotna also provides goods and services to residents in Sterling, Funny River, Kenai, Kasilof and Ridgeway, the resolution says.

“Soldotna serves as a vital regional hub for the Kenai Peninsula and attracts a large number of residents, visitors, and tourists,” the resolution says. “Soldotna’s location along the Sterling Highway, plays a central role in connecting the various peninsula communities.”

Soldotna City Manager Janette Bower wrote in an April 24 report that the city will work with the board to implement a process to issue the new licenses.

Bower said via email Wednesday that the city has received “several inquiries” about the opportunity to secure a license but said she wouldn’t characterize it as a demand. The new licenses, she said, may also incentivize business to move to Soldotna and support planned redevelopment along the Kenai River.

“We simply wanted to extend the opportunity to our existing businesses should they choose to take advantage of this opportunity,” Bower said.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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