Closed since the November earthquake, Eagle River McDonald’s owner hopes to have store open by year’s end

Eagle River residents grimacing about fewer local fast food options will have to McWait until the end of the year to address their earthquake-induced Mac attacks — but happier meals are ahead.

“The bottom line is the store’s going to be rebuilt,” said Mike Davidson, who owns 21 McDonald’s franchises in Southcentral Alaska, including the shuttered store along Eagle River’s main drag.

The building was boarded up after the large shake on Nov. 30, 2018 caused damage to its foundation. Davidson said the McDonald’s corporation — which actually owns the building and land alongside the Old Glenn Highway — made the decision to tear the store down and rebuild in February and has been going through the Municipality of Anchorage permitting process for the past several months.

“It’s just a really long, complicated process,” Davidson said.

Davidson said it’s been a somewhat frustrating permitting process, but he thinks it’s possible demolition work could begin by June or July.

“We’re hopeful we can get it open by the end of the year,” he said.

The restaurant is one of several public buildings and private businesses in Eagle River that were forced to close either temporarily or permanently after the quake, including two schools and the Eagle River Town Center Building. Both Gruening Middle School and Eagle River Elementary School will be closed until at least 2021 for repairs, and the Town Center building was closed indefinitely this week due to damage that was only recently uncovered.

The Eagle River McDonald’s rebuild will mirror construction that just began in Wasilla, where another restaurant was recently torn down to make way for a newer version expected to be open this fall. Both stores will feature a new design that includes a dual drive-through system, Davidson said.

Davidson said the Eagle River store manager and a handful of key employees were moved to other stores after the magnitude 7.1 earthquake, but most of the roughly 50 crew members were laid off after the closure. However, he said anyone who was working at the restaurant before the quake and wants to return will be rehired once the Eagle River store is back in business.

There’s been a flurry of interest in the restaurant over the past few months — Davidson said people have been calling almost daily to check on the status of the restaurant — and he said the response from customers eager to learn when the store will reopen has been gratifying to see.

“The people have just been great.”