The Anchorage Assembly narrowly voted late Tuesday night to protest a liquor license renewal for a store in the Fairview neighborhood, a highly unusual move that comes after neighbors and Assembly members intensified an effort to shut down the store.
Spirits of Alaska, located at 1139 Gambell Street, had drawn mounting criticism for fueling the neighborhood's problems with drug dealers and street alcoholics. Representatives of the Fairview Community Council say their efforts to work with store management were unsuccessful. During Tuesday night's Assembly hearing, acting Capt. Garry Gilliam of the Anchorage Police Department's Community Action Policing team showed to the Assembly portions of a 20-minute video that he said documented drug deals and straw purchases outside the store.
The store's owner, Bridget Thompson, told the Assembly during Tuesday night's hearing that closing her business won't solve the problems. She also called the hearing process "unfair."
After extending the meeting to 11:30 p.m., the Assembly voted 6-5 to formally protest the renewal of the Spirits of Alaska license to the state Alcoholic Beverage Control board. Amy Demboski, a Chugiak-Eagle River Assembly member and candidate for Anchorage mayor, was among those in the minority opposing the protest.
Thompson said after the meeting she was surprised by the Assembly's action.
Assembly member Patrick Flynn, who represents Fairview and co-sponsored the protest ordinance, said the decision was "really tough." He said it's not easy to opt to pull a license for a business. But he said the action could send a message.
"Maybe, while unfortunately we have to make an example of somebody, maybe doing so will help convince other operators they need to step up their game," Flynn said.
The final question of whether the license will be renewed now rests with the state alcohol board.