Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Awash in PFD cash — Bars see increase in weekend sales as dividends hit bank accounts

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

The influx of cash from the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend hitting bank accounts each fall brings on a round of celebration for those who get the money.

Some people choose to mark the occasion by filling a shopping cart with a major purchase, be it just for fun, like a flat-screen TV, or necessity, like snow tires.

Others prefer to celebrate a more old-fashioned way, by filling a glass and toasting the occasion.

“We definitely had a higher sales volume than normal,” said Molly Poland, the bar manager at Hooligan’s Saloon in Soldotna.

This year’s record-high $2,069 dividends were transferred to bank accounts Friday, along with $1,200 energy rebates, for a total deposit of $3,269. People who elect to get their dividend by check will see theirs in October. Those who were signed up for direct deposit got their money — and spent some of it — over the weekend.

“People just are excited to be able to chill out, have a beer and not worry about not being able to pay for it or groceries or whatever,” Poland said.

Hooligan’s had a promotional activity Friday that may have accounted for some of the excess crowd it saw this weekend, but the dividend was cause for extra celebration.

“They were just a mellow, happy crowd of people. It’s like winning the lottery,” Poland said.

Across the Sterling Highway at the Maverick in Soldotna, owner and manager Cindy Helleck said Monday that she hadn’t tallied her till yet, but she guessed business was up because of the amount of time she had to pitch in bartending.

“Generally people like to go out and treat themselves to some fun before they pay the bills,” Helleck said.

Dividend weekend was a nice boost for Moosequito’s bar in Sterling, where sales had slowed down after the summer rush. Money in people’s pockets and a live band on Friday brought out a slightly smaller crowd than the bar might see on New Year’s Eve, said manager Chelsea Rates.

“It was good for the bartenders, definitely,” Rates said. “Both Friday and Saturday nights were good.”

In Nikiski, The Place bar’s usual weekend count of 25 to 30 patrons coming in on and off throughout the night swelled to about 40 happy revelers on Friday, said manager and bartender Amber Demars.

“They were all pretty mellow. We don’t really have any problems out here normally,” she said.

Even daytime activity increased over the weekend. Bill Sanzi, the daytime bar manager at the Rainbow in Kenai said his clientele jumped by about half.

“Even during the day we’re getting more and more people,” he said.

Also in Kenai, the Back Door Sports Bar saw some customers who were celebrating their large egress and what they bought with it.

“I know I was pretty steady all day,” said Leslie Wahl, the day manager of the Back Door. “I got hit with all the people having lunch and shopping. People up from Homer going to SBS or Home Depot, they’d go buy a TV from Dan’s and come in for lunch.”

Extra activity in the bars didn’t pour out onto the streets, though. Kenai Police Department Sgt. Randy Kornfield said Kenai patrolmen didn’t notice an increase in driving under the influence or other drinking-related activity over the weekend.

“We did not increase patrols this year. We did not see an increase in the calls for service or DUIs, or related calls,” Kornfield said. “We had a DUI but it was no different than any other night.”

Revelers apparently didn’t let their money, or the liquid celebration it may have bought, cloud their judgment.

“I would tend to believe most people are pretty responsible with their money,” Kornfield said.

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