Bear enters Seward hotel & restaurant

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SEWARD, AK (KTUU) A black bear recently walked inside a hotel and a restaurant in Seward without reservations.

Breeze Inn employee tries to convince bear to leave hotel lobby. Photo courtesy Cheryl Verschueren.

The animal's first stop was the Breeze Inn on Sunday afternoon.

Employees say the bear entered through a side door that had been propped open for cleaning staff. The bear walked to the front lobby and parked itself on a sofa.

"I just looked over and thought 'how did the bear get here?, " said Cheryl Verschueren, who was running the front desk.

Phil Valenza, who does maintenance work at the hotel, heard the commotion in the lobby and came to help convince the bear to leave.

"I'm looking at him dead in the eyes, which way you gonna go?" said Valenza. "There's one picture (taken by hotel staff) where I'm reaching in my back pocket. I carry a pocket knife, and I'm reaching for that and I'm thinking 'well, that's not gonna help you a whole bunch' " Valenza said with a laugh.

Hotel employees propped open the front doors and coaxed the bear to leave, but its tour of downtown Seward wasn't over.

Monday, the bear managed to get inside Chinook's Restaurant.

"So, there was some guests that were coming to join us at the restaurant, and this was what they were greeted by.... a bear coming out of our front door" said Hillary Bean, co-owner of Chinook's, as she played a video of the bear running out the front door.

Bean says the bear later returned and was seen by customers as it strolled along the restaurant's back walkway. Restaurant employees quickly closed a side door to keep the bear from entering.

No one has been injured, and while there's been more amusement than fear over the encounters, people in Seward are concerned for the bear's safety.

"I don't know what the outcome is going to be" said Cheryl Verschueren at the hotel. "I'm kind of afraid, because he's a cute little bear. He may get shot, I hope not."

Jeff Salinger, a biologist with the AK Dept of Fish & Game in Soldotna, said Tuesday that no one has reported the bear encounters to state officials, and at this point no action involving the bear is planned.