Brown Bag neighbors fed up with rowdy clientele, push community council to take action
Last updated at 10:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 11
A group of Downtown residents, landlords, tenants and business owners are fed up with their new neighbor, Brown Bag Sandwich Co., which moved into the Woodshed bar’s old location last Fall.
Brown Bag celebrated its grand opening on 3rd Avenue in December.
People who live and work next door say during the day, Brown Bag isn’t a problem and their customers bring more business to the area, but at night, they say, the crowd they attract is loud and vulgar, making the neighborhood a miserable place to be.
“It is simple. It is not only me, it is not only for Brown Bag, it is for everybody. We have to follow the rules,” said Geewon Anderson, owner of Urban Sushi, during an impassioned speech at Wednesday’s Downtown Community Council meeting.
Anderson’s restaurant is on the other side of the block she shares with Brown Bag and the Turnagain Arms condos, which are adjacent to the bar. She and several Downtown residents have complained about Brown Bag to the Downtown Community Council before, as well as the Anchorage Assembly, the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office, and they frequently call the Anchorage Police Department.
After months dealing with the noise, waking up to vomit on the sidewalks and vandalism of their storefronts, she says they decided to put up cameras.
A large portion of the inappropriate behavior they caught on camera was men and women urinating in public.
“Repeated urination right at our condo front door. People stumble out of the Brown Bag, they’re urinating all night long. They’re like dogs, they mark their territory. It’s always the same spot,” said Doug Farris, a resident and landlord at Turnagain Arms.
They also say the footage shows Brown Bag’s security guards letting people walk in and out with open containers.
“They’re obviously not managing their liquor license properly,” said Farris.
Beyond the vomiting, vandalism and urinating, the residents say they just don’t feel safe. The surveillance cameras captured people throwing things, pushing, shoving, and in one case, a violent assault, in which a man on the street punched a passenger inside a vehicle.
“One person comes across the street [and] punch at somebody who’s driving the car. This is happening in Anchorage. So can we improve our life in Anchorage with a business owner like Brown Bag? You tell me,” said Anderson, during the groups presentation at Wednesday’s meeting.
They showed the video to the Downtown Community Council because they say even mediation efforts with Brown Bag owners haven’t worked. They’re asking the council to go before the Anchorage Assembly and ask for some kind of injunction against Brown Bag’s liquor license.
The owners, were at the meeting too. They were allowed significantly less time to speak to the room, but said they’ve tried to be good neighbors by not serving alcohol outside on their decks and closing earlier than they have to — decisions that cost them money.
“What steps are you guys taking to help your tenants? Have you guys looked into sound proofing? I offered to help pay for that,” said owner Antoine McLeod.
He passed out handouts to attendees, outlining other steps they’ve taken to solve the problem, including installing their own surveillance cameras and exterior lighting, using an ID card scanner, and providing professional security training for their security guards.
“The video that [they’re] showing, it’s not showing whether or not these are people that we denied access to, because every night we deny access to dozens of people who are intoxicated,” said McLeod.
KTVA has reached out to Brown Bag several times for comment regarding complaints from neighboring businesses, with no success. Late Tuesday evening, Brown Bag owners e-mailed KTVA a 10-minute video in response to recent stories. Antoine McLeod, with Brown Bag Co., said the video shows all the ways the company has tried to work on problems with neighboring businesses without any help in return. Their suggestions include adding more lights. They also say they use decibel meters to measure noise levels and keep it down, and have done a number of things not required by the Municipality in an attempt to be a good neighbor.
Also in the video, Brown Bag owners take a shot at the Turnagain Arms Condo Association and other area businesses, saying they’ve offered to help split the cost of safety improvements at other businesses, but were rejected repeatedly.
The Anchorage police say from April 1 through Oct. 5, they’ve been called to Brown Bag 28 times; twice for an assault, six times for a disturbance, 12 calls were noise complaints, and one was a strong arm robbery, in which someone forcibly stole a purse from a woman in the restroom.
The Alcohol Marijuana Control Office says they are aware of the neighbors complaints about noise and trash, but so far, no one has reported a Title 4 violation to them, only municipal ordinance violations, and those complaints were made in July and early-August. Director Cynthia Franklin said in an email: “The enforcement unit has not received any new complaints about Brown Bag. Their email is firstname.lastname@example.org They cannot act on something they are not aware of.”
The next Downtown Community Council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 3, at 5:30 p.m. at the Anchorage Museum.
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