Assembly passes new 'bar break' ordinance

Nathaniel Herz

The Anchorage Assembly unanimously passed an ordinance Tuesday evening that takes a second crack at the problem of "bar break," the chaotic period when downtown bars close and send their patrons flooding onto the streets.

The ordinance allows the bars to apply for a permit that would let them stay open for an extra hour on weekends, until 4:00 a.m., as long as they stop serving alcohol and clear away any unfinished drinks.

The measure, which Mayor Dan Sullivan supports, repeals a similar ordinance that the Assembly passed in March. That version didn't get buy-in from bar owners, who were scared off by the prospect of fines up to $10,000 if they were found violating the rules of their permit.

Only one bar, the Gaslight Lounge, applied.

This time, both an industry group and a downtown business association are planning a recruiting effort to convince bars to sign up.

"We're anxious to see it tried out," said Christopher Schutte, the executive director of the business association, the Anchorage Downtown Partnership.

The measure requires the Municipal Clerk to report monthly on how many bars have signed up for the program, and if any have been caught violating the conditions of their permits.

It goes into effect in 10 days and will be repealed a year later unless the Assembly decides to extend it.

Asked whether he expected more bars to participate, Assemblyman Dick Traini, who sponsored both ordinances, responded: "We'll find out."

The Assembly, he added, is "not taking it any further."

"The bar owners have asked for a long time for a safety hour," Traini said. "This is their safety hour, so let's join with them to see what we can make of it."

Reach Nathaniel Herz at or 257-4311.