As a customer, the hardest thing about ordering a beer or wine at a café is deciding which offering you’d like with your meal. For the business, though, at least in Alaska, getting to the point of being able to offer those beverages can be a long and time-consuming process.
Lucy’s Market on Homestead Lane in Soldotna is hoping to be able to serve wine and beer and is in the last couple of weeks of an attempt to be licensed to do so.
“Largely because we want to be able to offer classes — wine-pairing classes, have special dinner events,” said owner Kelsey Shields. “Basically, we want to be able to open up the door to do those kinds of things, and in order to do so, we have to have this license. As a bonus, on a daily basis, we would also be able to offer people a glass of wine or pint of beer with their food.”
Beer would be rotating taps, featuring local craft brews — they are next door to Kenai River Brewing, after all — as well as specialty imports. For wine, Shields wants to complement the artisanal cheeses her shop offers.
“Trying to pair with cheese, probably have featured cheese-and-wine pairings of the month and that kind of thing,” Shields said. “We’ll try to have things that you can’t get everywhere else in town, maybe focusing a little bit on some of the areas our cheeses are coming from, too, so some great French wines, Italian wines and stuff like that.”
Shields said customers tell her they are excited about the idea, but the state of Alaska requires a lot more than just that kind of local support. It requires hyper-local support. As in, within a mile radius of the establishment.
“There are only three beer and wine licenses available in Soldotna,” she said. “Those are in use, so there is a provision in the law where you can try for what’s called a convenience license. So if it’s determined that the public basically wants you to have this, then maybe your application will get approved. So the way we prove that is by getting signatures from the majority of the over-21 population that lives within one square mile of our business.”
Shields figures she needs 530 signatures and she only has 90 days to gather them. The clock started ticking on the day she got the first signature. Time runs out Jan. 13.
“We’re still clarifying if the ABC Board has to have received our signatures by then or if we can or postmark them on that day,” she said.
Shields has about half the signatures she needs. The challenge hasn’t been opposition, it’s been finding residents to even ask if they support the idea. She’s got the petition in Lucy’s Market and has been posting about it on social media. She and her crew have gone door to door and recently sent mailers to people in the designated area.
“What we feel like we’re running into is probably a lot of those residential properties are seasonal, because it’s a bit of Funny River and parts of East Redoubt, so it might have been a foolish time of year to try to find those people,” she said.
If they do get enough signatures, Shields will send in the application and wait three to six months for a review and decision from the Alaska Alcohol and Marijuana Control Board. If they don’t — a possibility Shields has come to terms with — they’ll maybe try again in the summer, when, hopefully, more of her neighbors are around.
For these last few weeks, Shields will further step up outreach — most social media and more just trying to find and talk to residents.
“Send us a message, even, on Facebook or Instagram,” she said. “We will come to you if that’s easier. We would love your signature if you live within a mile of us.”
Anyone wanting to find out more about what Lucy’s Market hopes to do with a beer and wine license can contact them through Lucy’s Market on Facebook or stop by the café. They’re in the same building as River City Books in Soldotna.