AND WHAT READERS CAN DO TO HELP
Jason Floyd was living his dream in Soldotna. After being laid off during budget cuts by the University of Alaska a few years ago, he and with his wife Michele and five children opened up a coffee shop in the heart of the Kenai Peninsula.
Ammo-Can Coffee is that coffee shop. Between the regionally famous cups of coffee that bring people streaming through the doors, and the various groups that use the meeting room, Ammo-Can has become a cultural center of sorts in Soldotna, especially for those who love America and the Constitution.
Ammo-Can offers discounts for veterans, and another discount for those responsibly carrying firearms. Floyd asks all his customers if they are packing, and thanks them for supporting the Second Amendment.
He has a sign on the wall that says “Keep your firearm holstered. If need arises, judicious marksmanship is appreciated.”
“We get lots of people taking their photos next to it but really, that’s our rule,” he said. He doesn’t allow people to unholster their firearms in his establishment, but he honors their right to carry.
When the COVID-19 mandates came down, business dropped off dramatically, as it has done all over the state. But the Floyds were able to stay open for several weeks, as they were still able to legally provide take-out coffee. The coffee klatch groups couldn’t gather, and the youth groups from a local church could no longer have their weekly meeting there.
Clearly, the Floyds’ finances were growing more problematic. They were not able to make good on their lease for the first time, and the government aid programs for businesses, they discovered, were not designed for a business like theirs, with all the members of the family working as baristas and bottle-washers.
The Floyds have other businesses to help them make ends meet: They own a small peony brokerage representing farms across the state. This year, weddings are being cancelled all over America, and most Alaska peony farmers will lose their crops because the markets have dried up. He also runs a 4-H program which has been cancelled due to COVID-19. His wife Michele teaches piano and voice.
“She is my rock,” Floyd said.
Usually, diversifying your income streams in Alaska provides some financial security, but not this year for the Floyds: Their income streams have dissolved.
Floyd hit a low point when all of a sudden a call came from the church youth group that had been meeting weekly at the shop. They asked him if he would meet them on the curb.
Jason went out the door and greeted the youth, who handed him their monthly tithe. They wanted him to know they knew times were tough, and they looked forward to better days ahead. But in the meantime, they wanted him to accept their contribution.
He’d never imagined a world where he would be accepting money from his church youth group customers just to keep his business alive.
HEALTH MANDATE 16 – THE NAIL IN THE COFFIN?
The final blow came with Health Mandate 16, announced on Wednesday by the Dunleavy Administration.
It was supposed to start a “stage-gated” opening of businesses around the state, but for many business owners, it has proven to be a nightmare.
Ammo-Can is experiencing that nightmare. While people have been able to come into the shop to buy coffee to take it with them, the newest mandate says that the business, and all others that serve the public, must provide hand sanitizer at the door.
The problem is, in Soldotna, Nikiski, Homer, and most small towns around Alaska, there is no hand sanitizer for sale at any price. You can’t even find a bottle of Everclear to make your own.
A call to the wholesaler ALSCO in Anchorage verified that no commercial sizes of hand sanitizer is available and there is no date in the future when it will be.
The Floyds, like many businesses that were hanging on by a thread, had great hopes that this Friday they would be able to open to the public. Now, he feels the government has dealt him a crushing blow.
Instead of allowing people inside the shop, as they’ve been able to do for a month, the coffee shop can suddenly only provide curb-side service.
Floyd says the penalties associated with not obeying the mandate are serious: A violation of the mandate can result in an order to close, or a civil fine up to $1,000 per violation. In addition, the business can be criminally prosecuted for reckless endangerment, a Class A misdemeanor.
That means the father of five could face imprisonment for not more than a year if he just stood his ground against the government.
But the penalties don’t stop there: Under Alaska Statute 12.55.035, any person violating Mandate 16 may be fined up to $25,000 and a business organization may be sentenced to pay a fine not exceeding the greatest of $2,500,000 for a misdemeanor offense that results in death, or $500,000 for a class A misdemeanor offense that does not result in death.
In spite of everything, Floyd says the community is amazing and that “coffee is a special culture in Alaska.” He has put his faith in God.
CAN AMMO-CAN COFFEE SURVIVE?
Ammo-Can Coffee is like thousands of businesses that are suffering under local, state, and federal government mandates.
Must Read Alaska has set up a GoFundMe page to help keep this family-owned business alive.
Buy a “virtual cup of coffee” and send some love to the Floyd family so they can make it through the next few weeks of rigid government mandates and keep their doors open and their coffee pot on.
You can also send the business a cash contribution through the Venmo app. Jason’s Venmo identifier is Jason Floyd @ Jason-Floyd76.