Legal Troubles Don't Mean Liquor License Problems (KTVA.com Exclusive)
ANCHORAGE – On Saint Patrick’s Day, the drinking began early and lasted all day.
At lunchtime, a dozen or so people gathered around the battered wooden bar at Darwin’s Theory, sipping green bottled Budweiser and tossing back fireball shots with the bar’s owner. Elbow-to-elbow crowds sloshed pint glasses of Guinness and danced to a live band at McGinley’s, and bouncers routinely checked in on the line of would-be patrons snaking out the front door and down the block.
Hours later, two men sidled into yet another bar and ordered drinks. It was 2 a.m, and the other storefronts in the dingy East Anchorage strip mall had been dark for a while. The Three Amigos Mexican Restaurant usually closed at 10 p.m. on the weekends, earlier if business was slow, and its conditional use permit forbid the Boniface bar from selling alcohol past 1 a.m.
But the two Alcohol Beverage Control Board investigators who ordered drinks March 17 said it wasn’t the first time the restaurant violated the conditions of its permit.
Two weeks previously, undercover Anchorage police officers had bought several drinks at Three Amigos after 3 a.m., well past the citywide bar closing hour. In mid-February, officers bought shots from an untrained bartender at a private party, then arrested several partygoers in the parking lot when the alcohol-saturated gathering turned violent later that morning.
All told, the Anchorage Police Department reported more than 25 calls to the restaurant over the past six months. They responded to everything from liquor law violations to weapons misconduct, drug use and gang activity. Officers said the bar, situated unobtrusively at the edge of a residential neighborhood just a few blocks from an elementary school, also frequently acted as an illegal after-hours nightclub.
Despite the legal troubles and investigations, the restaurant’s conditional use permit is slated for renewal Tuesday, tucked into the Assembly’s consent agenda following a resolution to honor a longtime public servant.
“Just because someone’s arrested and charged doesn’t mean they’re guilty,” said Assemblyman Paul Honeman, who sits at the head of the body’s public safety committee.
When it comes to governing local bars, restaurants, liquor stores and other establishments, the East Anchorage lawmaker said the Assembly is only one part of the process. While it’s charged with setting conditions and issuing permits for businesses, Honeman said the ABC board is tasked with issuing liquor licenses and investigating violations of local and state law.
“That’s where we have the bigger hammer,” he said. “A person could own a liquor license and not have the conditional use permit to use the license.”
The question of permit conditions came up recently in the case of Rumrunner’s Old Towne Bar & Grill, which found itself in hot water after a patron accused bar bouncers of handcuffing him and beating him bloody in the basement last October. The investigation into the attack on 26-year-old Johnny Brown led to felony assault charges against not only the security guard involved, but the bar’s parent company as well.