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Platinum Jaxx closing after eight years

Devin Kelly

The downtown nightclub Platinum Jaxx, a mecca for sports fans and late-night partiers as well as a perennial trouble spot for law enforcement, will be shutting down Sunday, a decision tied to slumping business after an eight-year run, the club's owners said.

The announcement of the closure came early Tuesday afternoon in a post on the club's Facebook page.

"It is with heavy hearts we announce that this will be the last weekend for Platinum Jaxx," the post read. "We have decided to go a different direction."

The club's lease in the building at 901 W. 6th Avenue is up at the end of June, and the owners decided not to sign a new one, Paul Stockler, one of the owners of Platinum Jaxx, said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Stockler said the landscape of the downtown nightlife scene has shifted in the last two years with the closure of two popular clubs, Rumrunners and the Anchor. Rumrunners, at Fourth Avenue and E Street, shut down in late 2012 in the face of criminal charges that a bouncer severely beat a handcuffed customer. Then, in August, the Anchor, a bar and dance club, closed to make way for an expanded Legislative Information Office.

"The downtown scene isn't what it used to be," Stockler said.

Stockler, an Anchorage lawyer, said Platinum Jaxx has been struggling financially for some time. The club closed down its restaurant within the last month, and at the start of the year, the face of the Platinum Jaxx operation, manager and owner Jaysir Alden, went to work for Chilkoot Charlie's after the club couldn't afford to keep paying his salary, Stockler said.

"It's kind of a downward spiral," Stockler said.

Like the Anchor and Rumrunners, the club's tenure has been marred by bursts of trouble, most prominently a shooting death that occurred outside the club in October 2012. During a fight that broke out after a Halloween party, a 27-year-old Russian kick-boxer, Said Beshirov, was shot and killed. The suspected shooter, Korakanh Phornsavanh, is awaiting trial.

Stockler said the shooting "certainly hurt business." But he also said that isn't an excuse.

"The mistake business owners can make is to blame other factors, instead of looking internally and figuring out what mistakes they made as managers and owners," he said.

When Platinum Jaxx opened in 2006, it was the only major nightclub downtown, Stockler said. It marketed itself as an upscale dance venue and staked a claim as the "number one place to party" in Anchorage. For a time, business was booming.

"We were packed. We had lines out the street," Stockler said.

After two years of operation, federal prosecutors said one of the initial investors in Platinum Jaxx, Wallie Vierra, used drug money to help start the business. The criminal case, which did not implicate any other owners, ended in a plea deal, and the federal government seized Vierra's 25 percent ownership stake in the club.

The other owners later bought out the government's share, co-owner Jess Hepper told the Anchorage Daily News in 2012.

At its peak, the club pulled in $30,000 on a Saturday night, Stockler said. These days, the Saturday night revenue is closer to $1,500. Along with that declining revenue, Platinum Jaxx has dramatically scaled back the number of employees over the years, from a height of 100 people to about 15 currently, Stockler said. From 11 bartenders manning the club in its heyday, there are now four.

In reflecting on the past eight years of the club's operation, Stockler indicated a mix of pride and regret.

"I'm proud that I've given plenty of people jobs," Stockler said. "(And) as crazy as it sounds, I know hundreds of people that met at Platinum Jaxx that have since gotten married and had kids."

He added: "The violence and the bad things that happened, I never wanted to be a part of that."

Reach Devin Kelly at dkelly@adn.com or 257-4314.


By DEVIN KELLY
dkelly@adn.com