Econ 919: Investment turns Kenai oldest bar into its newest

Jun 17, 2019

Kenai Joe.

The owners of the former Agrium fertilizer plant in Nikiski could be close to deciding whether to restart the facility. But first, beer.

Kenai Joes in Old Town is one of the oldest licensed establishments on the peninsula, founded by a Polish immigrant nearly 100 years ago. The definition of “dive bar,” the appropriate place for your peanut shells in Kenai Joes was on the plywood floor. But that’s going to change with the new owners, Doug Hogue and Colton Hertog, of Kenai River Brewing Company. They appeared on KDLL’s Drinking on the Last Frontier with Bill Howell to discuss their plans.

Kenai Joes will not be a taproom like the Kenai River Brewing Co. building in Soldotna. Instead, it will feature a full menu of drinks, and in the future, food, according to Colton Hertog.

Also look for Kenai Joes to continue serving as a venue for live music, though it’s unknown if karaoke night will continue.

Turning to petroleum news, literally, the weekly publication Petroleum News is reporting that the former Agrium fertilizer plant in Nikiski could potentially reopen — but that we shouldn’t hold our breath.

The plant closed in 2007 due to a dwindling supply of feed stock. It is owned now by Nutrien, after a merger between Agrium and Potash Corporation in 2018. Currently, government estimates put the untapped supply in the Cook Inlet and Kenai Peninsula at 19 trillion cubic feet because of new exploration and production. The plant would need about 160 million cubic feet of natural gas a day under full production.

When running at capacity, the fertilizer plant provided about 400 high-paying jobs.