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Fairview group proposes banning alcohol sales to city's biggest problem drinkers

Marc Lester

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --

Problem drinkers who drain city services and habitually wind up in jail would be banned from buying alcohol within Anchorage city limits under a new proposal by Fairview businesses.

Members of the Fairview Business Association pitched the idea to lawmakers this week in Juneau, where the Legislature is writing the state spending plan. It would cost $5 million dollars over three years, the group said, including treatment help for alcoholics.

The proposal calls for Anchorage police to identify the chronic, problem drinkers who are most likely to be placed in the city sleep-off center because they are too drunk to take care of themselves, are arrested for trespassing or charged with other frequent alcohol-related crimes. 

As many as 200 people who met the criteria, which is still being determined, would be placed on a list and not allowed to buy alcohol at stores and bars.

“It’s almost the same criteria that they use to fill Karluk Manor,” said association board member Heidi Heinrich. 

Heinrich co-manages the Lucky Wishbone on 5th Avenue. The longtime fried chicken and burger house sits across the street from Karluk Manor, which was the first “Housing First” home for chronic alcoholics in Alaska. Karluk Manor resident Gregory Jack, 59, was found dead outdoors Thursday morning, yards from the restaurant. Police have said there were no obvious signs of foul play.

“This model could spread to Juneau and Fairbanks,” said Christopher Constant, a board member for the business association and an administrator at Akeela

“We are proposing that the funding for this initiative would come from the state’s alcohol taxes, which amount to approximately $40 million per year,” the association says. 

The no-sell list is just part of a sweeping proposal by the association. The plan also calls for appointing an agency to provide case management for the city’s high-profile, at-risk drinkers. Case managers would follow each person through the treatment process from detoxification to rehab to finding a job and housing, the Fairview association proposes.

Fairview business owners and residents have long sought a solution to problem drinking and alcohol-fueled crime in the neighborhood.

Two people were shot and killed and another injured in a mysterious shooting at a homeless encampment March 10 off of Karluk Street. Bean’s Café, a soup kitchen, and the Brother Francis Shelter are within three blocks. Lucky Wishbone employees arrive early to clear the sidewalks around the restaurant of liquor bottles, mouthwash containers and other debris left by heavy drinkers and homeless who wander the area, the managers said. 

Constant said the no-sell list proposal is based on a similar effort launched in Green Bay in the mid-1990s. The idea of forbidding people from buying alcohol is sure to raise questions of personal rights and constitutionality. 

“The American Civil Liberties Union protested the (Green Bay) list, arguing that denying people legal goods changed their legal and social status,” the Wisconsin State Journal reported in 2009. “But Green Bay continued the policy, saying it is supported in state law, which bans alcohol distribution to 'known habitual drunkards.'"

In Janesville, Wisc., anyone who has three or more alcohol-related incidents that result in a police call within a six-month period is placed on a “no-serve” list for bars and liquor stores, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. People can protest placement on the list to a city alcohol license advisory committee.

The Fairview association is still determining what, if any, changes to state or city law would be necessary to create a “no-sell” list for alcohol in Anchorage. 

The association is calling for the Department of Commerce to administer the project through a grant, with project’s performance reviewed by the Department of Corrections. Akeela would handle “overall project management, accounting and reporting on financial aspects to the Department of Commerce,” the proposal says.

According to the group, the project’s costs would include:

-Outreach and court diversion

-Increased detox services

-Residential and outpatient rehabilitation

-Reentry job training and placement

-Case management and project management 

Read more about the proposal here



Anchorage