Friday, May 24, 2013
Neighbors Protest Rumrunner’s Expansion Plans
Anchorage Assembly gives popular bar 60-day extension to fix permit, safety problems
ANCHORAGE—A battle is brewing downtown between Rumrunner’s Old Towne Bar and Grill and the Anchorage Assembly over the popular bar's plans to expand.
The city has been getting more complaints about noise and violence coming from Rumrunner's and now assembly members say the bar has not followed proper protocol in getting permission to expand.
Community members are also weighing in, saying the popular business should not get any bigger. Upset about what they say is constant noise and violence coming from the downtown business, they say they have seen and heard enough.
“This loud music blasts out from the doors and disturbs our hotel guests who are there as tourists in the downtown area,” said Terri Russi, who is the general manager of the Historic Anchorage Hotel, which is located directly northwest of Rumrunners. Russi testified before the Assembly on Tuesday.
“In the last couple of months, we've had about $4,500 worth of damage to our property,” said Buzz Rohlfing, who owns a business nearby. “People breaking windows, bending antennas, fighting and screaming.”
Nearby businesses say the noise and violence is costing them money and scaring customers away.
“I mean, our guests are asking us if it’s safe to go downtown,” Russi said. “It’s 11 at night. Is it safe to go downtown because they are scared of the bar and all the commotion that goes on out there.”
Russi and Rohlfing are opposing the bar's plans to add a third floor and open up the basement, which is called The Vault. But according to assembly members, Rumrunner's has already put the plans into motion without getting the necessary permits.
“The original conditional use allowed for bar premises, restaurant and bar on the upper floor,” said Assembly member Paul Honeman. “The basement was not included. There should have not been any activity in the bar until the conditional use review was complete.”
But health and safety officials say the bar doesn't even have its fire sprinklers, stairs and electricity up to code. They question whether Rumrunner's is equipped to handle more people—issues that Rumrunner’s attorney, Dan Coffey, says can be resolved.
“These are all soluble problems,” Coffey told assembly members on Tuesday. “I mean, we have done these kind of things in other locations more than once, and we can do them again. They can't be responsible in the sense that some lunatic can come down and shoot out a window, but they can certainly be an active presence in the vicinity of their own business.”
“We want responsible business owners, particularly with 40 bars, restaurants and basically licensed premises to serve alcohol in that immediate downtown area,” Honeman said.
The Assembly gave Rumrunners a 60-day extension on its conditional use permit to fix the safety and permit problem. The city’s public safety committee will take up the issue in its meeting next week to address nearby businesses’ concerns, as well as the more than 100 emergency calls Rumrunner’s has generated so far this year.
Rumrunner’s manager declined to comment for this story except to say everything is going great.