Alpenglow Wood Fired Pizza on Saturday, May 25, 2024, in Haines, Alaska. Owner Nolan Woodard has asked the borough to request more licenses from the state for local businesses to sell beer and wine onsite. (Rashah McChesney/Chilkat Valley News)
Alpenglow Wood Fired Pizza on Saturday, May 25, 2024, in Haines, Alaska. Owner Nolan Woodard has asked the borough to request more licenses from the state for local businesses to sell beer and wine onsite. (Rashah McChesney/Chilkat Valley News)

Nolan Woodard has owned Alpenglow Wood Fired Pizza in downtown Haines for just over a year now and is one of the few local restaurants that were open all winter. 

But, it wasn’t easy. He, and the close friends and family working with him, put in long hours for comparatively little pay. 

“It was a grind,” he said. 

Woodard is now asking the borough to help him get a license to sell beer and wine — something that he hopes will help boost his profit margins and build a little more breathing room in his budget. 

The number of restaurant or eating place licenses — more commonly known as beer and wine licenses —  are capped according to the size of the community. In the case of Haines, it’s capped at two.  

In the past, Woodard would have had to gather signatures for a petition to try and get a license that exceeds the community’s cap. 

“It’s a lot of work for people who are already doing a lot of work in the community trying to provide for us,” Woodard said during a recent Assembly meeting. 

As of January 1, the regulations have changed and now the borough must petition the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board for any licenses that exceed the community’s cap. 

So, Woodard went to the Assembly and asked members to draft a resolution supporting a request for 10 more licenses. 

“This is an awesome opportunity for the borough to be able to take action and help some of the different restaurant owners in this town,” he said. “In terms of longevity, I think more licenses could really help the economic growth of the food industry in this town.” 

Just a handful of other communities in Alaska have gone through the process of asking the ABC Board to raise population-based caps on beer and wine licenses. City leaders in Wasilla, Soldotna, and Valdez passed resolutions requesting more licenses and had those approved by the board. An effort in Juneau failed to get past its assembly.

There’s a good chance the Haines borough’s request would be approved by the state board. 

“I haven’t seen much pushback by board members,”  said local government specialist Gabriel Gonzalez who works with communities on issues that go before the ABC Board.

There could be pushback to the Haines Borough’s request at the local level, however. Woodard anticipated hearing from community members who don’t want to see more alcohol sold in town. 

But Gonzalez said there can also be pushback from other licensees. Because the number of licenses is capped, existing owners can sell their licenses for a premium. 

“We don’t broker or monitor those sales … but we’ve heard that they sell for upward of $200,000 sometimes,” Gonzalez said. 

Any increase in the cap could devalue those existing licenses. That was an issue raised in Juneau earlier this year when a resolution for the capital city to petition the state to raise its cap was tabled until November. 

As to when community members could sit in Alpenglow and order a glass of Merlot with their pizza — it could be awhile. 

If the borough’s resolution does pass, it must go to the state’s alcohol board which meets quarterly. If that board approves the increase, then Woodard must go through the process of applying for a beer and wine license. 

That’s where Gonzalez said it’s likely to hit a six to nine month delay. That’s because the state’s license examiners are backed up, in part because of all of the new license types that are available this year and just general applications to renew or transfer existing licenses. 

“Right now there’s over 800 applications in the queue,” he said. 

That makes a beer-and-wine license a fall or winter project for Woodard who said he is slammed with summer tourism business and the process of getting the borough assembly to support raising the cap. 

Assembly members seemed to be on board during their most recent meeting. They voted unanimously to support the development of a resolution to be discussed and voted on at a future meeting. 

“Thank you so much for coming out and your patience and your efforts to make our community more financially stable and tasty,” Mayor Tom Morphet said to Woodard. “And thanks for the pizza.”