Sara Erickson (courtesy)

Sara Erickson (courtesy)

Voices of the Peninsula: Restaurant and hospitality industry needs help from the governor now

What restaurants might be left for us to enjoy once we come out of quarantine?

  • Wednesday, April 8, 2020 10:02pm
  • Opinion

At its quarterly meeting on March 31 and April 1, and as reported by the Anchorage Daily News, the Alaska Alcoholic Beverage Control Board was faced with the decision to ease alcohol sale rules during the coronavirus pandemic crisis and to temporarily allow to-go alcohol sales.

In a recent poll taken on March 23, Alaska president and CEO of CHARR (Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association), Sarah Oates, told the ABC Board that 7% of Alaska’s restaurants had permanently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic and never to re-open. By March 30, that number had doubled to 14%. Fourteen percent of Alaska’s restaurants had permanently closed their doors due to the economic devastation. Oates suggested that number could double again in a week if we fail to take immediate remedial action. Industry attorney, Jessica Brown, also expressed concern that if no immediate relief came for the industry, hundreds to thousands of jobs could be lost.

On Wednesday, April 1, the ABC Board considered postponing our decision by a week to allow more time to think it over, but ultimately decided to immediately respond and unanimously approved to-go sales of factory-sealed beer and wine from any bar or restaurant currently licensed to sell such products on premises, with or without food. The Board also unanimously voted to allow curbside pickup of products from liquor stores and other manufacturers, such as breweries.

The ABC Board recognized the magnitude of the economic loss the hospitality/restaurant industry faces and voted to send an advisory opinion to the governor requesting he allow such to-go sales in the state of Alaska during the coronavirus pandemic. The governor has the authority to approve or deny our emergency request, but to date, no word has been heard from the governor or from his administration.

Allowing to-go orders during this pandemic crisis makes sense if we are to be consistent in our “hunker-down” message. This temporary allowance would be a way to support local businesses and hopefully keep them from collapsing, while taking further steps to encourage people to stay home and avoid crowding in stores.

We’ve all heard in the news we may be facing the worst economic collapse since the Great Recession in 2007. If we don’t immediately act to try and help the restaurants and others in the alcohol industry, what restaurants might be left for us to enjoy once we come out of quarantine?

Someone once said, “Silence screams a message, just as doing nothing is an act. What we do is who we are.” I wonder, what message is the governor sending?

I fully appreciate that alcohol needs to be appropriately regulated and, even during a national emergency, all important standards must be maintained. Consequently, the governor was given very specific legal information to help make this decision in confidence. The governor has at his fingertips the legal language necessary to enable the industry to conduct these activities — language that was drafted by his own team of assistant attorneys general in partnership with industry experts. With the possibility that this might save even a few small businesses from going under completely, and the likelihood that it will help prevent the spread of the virus, the governor should take this final small step and concur with the ABC Board’s advisory votes.

The fact is, 44 other states in the United States have temporarily eased alcohol restrictions to help salvage the industry during this crisis. Alaska is one of only six states that remains silent and perhaps even complicit in the downfall of our second largest industry — hospitality. It’s hard to know what kind of positive economic impact this will have on the industry, but perhaps it will help just enough to keep several more businesses afloat during this time. Any hope and assistance we can give to these small businesses during this crisis is not only welcomed but morally warranted. Action is needed now.

As a small business owner who was born and raised in this amazing state, I have always believed in fighting for what’s best for Alaskans and Alaskan businesses. I’m here serving as the appointed public member on the ABC Board doing my best to support this important industry and the public’s best interest. I am honored to serve as your representative.

Born and raised in Alaska, Sara Erickson is owner of AlaSkins (AlaSkins.com) and public member of the Alaska Alcohol Beverage & Control Board. Opinions expressed here are solely Erickson’s and do not express the views of the ABC Board.


• Born and raised in Alaska, Sara Erickson is owner of AlaSkins (AlaSkins.com) and public member of the Alaska Alcohol Beverage Control Board. Opinions expressed here are solely Erickson’s and do not express the views of the ABC Board.


More in Opinion

This image available under the Creative Commons license shows the outline of the state of Alaska filled with the pattern of the state flag.
Opinion: Bringing broadband to all Alaskans

Too many Alaskans face barriers accessing the internet.

This photo shows a stack of pocket constitutions at the Alaska State Capitol. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Join us in voting against a constitutional convention

Voting no on a constitutional convention is vital to the well-being and stability of our state.

Michael O’Meara.
Point of View: Tell BOEM how you feel

It seems like BOEM should prioritize input from people most likely to be affected if leases are sold

The State of Alaska, Department of Administration, Office of Information Technology webpage. (Screenshot/oit.alaska.gov)
Cloud migration now underway will strengthen, enhance State IT systems

At the most basic level, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services remotely

Jessica Cook, left, and Les Gara stand in The Peninsula Clarion’s offices on Thursday, June 30, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska Voices: Better schools for a better economy

We need leaders who care about our children’s futures

A resident casts their vote in the regular municipal election Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Voices of the Peninsula: This is our borough and city

By Therese Lewandowski Another election already? Yes! This is our local elections… Continue reading

The Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation building is seen in Juneau, Alaska, in March 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
Opinion: APFC keeps steady keel during turbulent year

FY2022 was a challenging year for all investors

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Nonprofits provide essential services not provided by cities

By our count, nonprofits provide more than 100 jobs to our communities

t
Opinion: Don’t get scammed like I nearly did

I should have just turned off the computer.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce campaigns for governor as he walks in the 65th annual Soldotna Progress Days Parade on Saturday, July 23, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. Pierce resigned as borough mayor effective Sept. 30, 2022, to focus on his gubernatorial campaign. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: ‘It has been an honor to serve’

Borough mayor gives send-off ahead of departure

Gov. Mike Dunleavy announces Friday, July 15, 2022, that 2022 most PFD payments will be distributed on Sept. 20, 2022. (Screenshot)
Opinion: A historic PFD still leaves work to be done

It is important to remember the dividend is not, and has never been, a welfare payment