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State Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to weigh in on Kodiak's restaurant licenses

Restaurants in downtown Kodiak during lunch on Wed., June 22, 2022. (Photo: Kirsten Dobroth/KMXT)
Kirsten Dobroth/KMXT
Restaurants in downtown Kodiak during lunch on Wed., June 22, 2022.

The City of Kodiak is requesting more restaurant licenses from the State of Alaska's Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board. If the state agrees, up to ten new licenses could be distributed to local restaurants wanting to serve beer and wine.

Kodiak, like many municipalities around the state, has reached its limit for licenses allowing restaurants to serve beer and wine. These specific licenses are known as Restaurant or Eating Place Licenses (REPLs).

The City of Kodiak has a limit of four such licenses based on its current population size. Kodiak’s REPLs are owned by Noodles, Peking, Second Floor, and Aquamarine.

“Only two of those licenses are in use today, actually, unfortunately," Leanna Harrington said.
Harrington owns two eateries in Kodiak, Three Sisters Coffee Co. and Bean & Bloom Coffeehouse, and she wants to expand her small business by offering beer and wine, but has struggled to obtain one of Kodiak’s two local inactive licenses. She addressed the city council during a work session on May 7, in part to discuss the letter she sent to the council a month prior.

“I was offered one of those permits for $30,000. As a business owner, I’m going to want to spend $1,000 for this permit that most of the state can go get. I don’t want to pay $30,000 to open this up, which includes a whole process on its own to transfer," Harrington said.

The licenses are transferable, according to state law. But local municipal governments can also petition the state to issue more. And that might be easier now that the state’s restaurant alcohol law, Title 4, was updated at the beginning of the year. The new state laws regarding alcoholic beverages and licenses, known as the Title 4 Rewrite, went into effect on Jan. 1.
Title 4 of Alaska State Statute relates to alcoholic beverages, regulations for manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers, as well as permits or licenses. The update recognizes the increasing numbers of non-residents coming into local communities, whether it’s more tourists or seasonal workers. It allows for one license per 1,500 people including visitors.
In the final resolution that was unanimously approved by Kodiak’s City Council, over 5,000 people were listed as living within city limits. But the resolution also cited roughly 64,000 visitors who came to town throughout 2023.

Gabriel Gonzales, the Local Government Specialist with the state’s Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office (AMCO), explains that there is a difference between a Restaurant or Eating Place License and other alcohol licenses. For example, a separate Beverage Dispensary License, which is mainly for bars that serve hard liquor and alcohol on premises.

“A Restaurant Eating Place License is an alcoholic beverage license which allows the holder, who operates a restaurant, a full bona fide restaurant, the ability to serve beer and wine on premises only. So it’s not like they can take drinks with them to go or even serve hard cocktails," Gonzales explained.

Minors who are not legally old enough to drink alcohol can still be in the restaurant for dining purposes only. A bona fide restaurant under state statute, in part means that the main activity of the place is consuming food.

To qualify for more of these restaurant licenses, an Alaska municipality must also meet certain criteria like be a first class city, maintain local law enforcement, and meet or exceed its maximum license limit.

In its request to the state, the City of Kodiak acknowledges that it meets these requirements and wants the Alcoholic and Beverage Control Board to issue ten additional licenses, bringing the municipality’s total to 14. In July of 2023 the City of Valdez requested an additional ten licenses for its community as well.

Gonzales said a total of five communities around the state have made similar requests so far.

“So Valdez, Wasilla, Soldotna, Haines, which will be considered at next week’s [ABC] Board meeting [June 25]. And now Kodiak," Gonzales said.

Each community’s justification for more licenses is similar – they have more people to cater to these days.

“It allows the municipality to say ‘hey, these are additional people that are within our community,’ and it helps them justify the public convenience that these additional licenses would provide," Gonzales said.

Kodiak City Councilmember Annika Woods said during the group’s most recent meeting on June 13, that having more restaurant licenses (REPLs) could benefit both the city and local businesses financially.

“It's a win-win for small businesses and our town having more options for places to go to enjoy alcoholic beverages. And the city gets more sales tax revenue from it. So it just feels really good all around," Woods said.

According to Kodiak’s Acting City Manager, Josie Bahnke, the council’s resolution also has the support of the Kodiak chapter of the Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association, also known as CHARR.

Bahnke told the council she is unsure how the additional licenses would be distributed to restaurants in town. But the council can cross that bridge when they get to it, as the ABC Board won’t make a final decision on the request until its meeting in September, which will conveniently be held in Kodiak.
Gonzales told KMXT the city council’s request did not reach his desk in time to be included in next week's ABC Board meeting.

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