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Brown Bag Sandwich Co. in downtown Anchorage closes after clash with neighbor

  • Author: Annie Zak
  • Updated: June 14, 2018
  • Published June 10, 2018

Brown Bag Sandwich Company, June 7, 2018. (Annie Zak / ADN)

Downtown Anchorage restaurant and bar Brown Bag Sandwich Co. shut its doors at the end of May, citing mounting tensions with a neighbor, owner Brynn McLeod said this week. Brown Bag had been open in that location since December 2015.

In a long Facebook post on Thursday, McLeod, who owned Brown Bag with her husband, Antoine, wrote about the reasons they decided to close. She constantly felt "watched," "judged," and "hated," she said.

The post also included screenshots of angry emails from Russ Reno, who owns Anchorage Downtown TourGroup, one of Brown Bag's neighbors — emails that Reno said "look really bad" and which came from "one night of frustration" when there was what he refers to as a late-night "riot" outside the bar.

In a Facebook message on Thursday, Brynn said she is now in Washington state and doesn't have plans to return, and that she and her husband have been wanting to move closer to their families for awhile.

"We closed because of increased tensions and negativity, and after receiving threatening emails, directed at me personally" from Reno, she said. "It seemed that he was outraged that unauthorized individuals had parked in the spaces dedicated for Turnagain Arms (condo) residents and was holding me personally accountable."

In an interview on Friday, Reno said he "said some hurtful things and I probably shouldn't have, but I was so frustrated at that point." He had grown tired of a rowdy bar crowd and loud music late at night, he said.

"It caused havoc outside, it was a nightmare," he said. "But I don't blame them for that. I think it's this rowdy group. The thing is, she has me in writing — it's one night of frustration. I was trying to sleep, and there's a riot outside."

One of Reno's screenshotted emails, most of which are dated May 27 and one which doesn't show a date, reads: "With all due respect we no longer respect you we are removing you from our block because you do not respect us bottom line you are pariah and were (sic) done with your bar!"

Another reads, "You need to call me because I'm out for blood tonight I'm tired of your bar," another reads, "you are a coward and I will take you down," and another mentions getting customers' cars towed.

Earlier, on May 13, TV news station KTVA reported that police had responded around 3 a.m. that Sunday morning to the area outside Brown Bag and ended up tasing one person and arresting that person and three others. A video that KTVA posted showed a line of police officers and a police vehicle blocking the street. A crowd was gathered on the sidewalk and there were people in the street.

From June 7 of 2016 to June 7 this year, there were 290 police calls to Brown Bag's address, 535 W. Third Ave. Just because that was the address on a call doesn't necessarily mean the restaurant was involved, police spokeswoman Renee Oistad said in an email.

Addresses where other downtown Anchorage bars are located also got hundreds of police calls during that time frame. There were 907 calls to the Gaslight's address, 250 to the address of the Avenue Bar, 164 to the Pioneer Bar address and 212 to where the Panhandle Bar is located, Oistad said.

Christopher Constant, an Anchorage Assembly member who represents downtown, said the city hadn't taken any official action against the bar.

"Obviously there were neighbor concerns, you saw the video, there were issues with the police department, managing the crowds that poured out into the street," he said. "One neighbor in particular created a hostile environment. And that's not right or fair."

Brown Bag moved in December of 2015 to the spot on Third Avenue, where the Woodshed Bar used to be. The restaurant originally opened in May of 2012 on D Street. In a Facebook message, Brynn said they would have stayed in the original spot if the lease hadn't become more expensive.

Their last day of business was May 26, she said.

"I simply ask that whatever is written, it be remembered that my husband and I️ gave our all into this business, sacrificing just about everything we had," Brynn said via Facebook message.

Now, after his emails were made public, Reno said he's received threats. People have also been leaving negative comments for his business on review websites, he said.

"I apologies (sic) for the hateful statements I made on March (sic) 27th in the middle of the night during a volatile situation and desperation," he said in a written statement Friday afternoon.

Constant said he understands the owners' decision to close the business.

"The neighbors are interested in creating a more hostile environment, so no additional bars will go there. But they don't have that kind of control," he said. "That building has been a bar for more than 40 years, will probably continue to be a bar."

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