Flynn planned on introducing a measure on Tuesday night that would target the largest downtown drinking establishments, with a capacity of 125 patrons or more – and would require them to stop serving alcohol one hour before closing time.
Currently bars close at 2:30 a.m. on weekdays and at 3:00 a.m. on weekends.
“I don’t wish them any ill will,” said Flynn. “The challenge that we as a community face, is, as they profit, the community pays the price.”
Nightlife in downtown Anchorage this year has seen more violence. A man was shot and killed in a disturbance outside Platinum Jaxx on Sixth Avenue in October. In July, a man was knifed several times in a fight outside the Anchor Pub on Fourth Avenue.
Flynn believes drunken bar patrons, congregating outside clubs at closing time, set the stage for violence.
“The security personnel are pushing everyone out the door and taking their drinks away, and they all end up on the sidewalk, a little bit agitated, perhaps a little bit intoxicated,” says Flynn. “And it’s a recipe for conflict.”
Flynn believes that if there were a more gradual transition of people leaving bars just before closing time, there would be fewer problems.
“If people get their last drink an hour before closing time, and take the time, they can leave on their own terms,” said Flynn.
The Anchorage CHARR office says Flynn’s plan would backfire. Once the larger bars stopped serving liquor, people would migrate to smaller bars that are allowed to sell alcohol. Some might even drive to clubs in other parts of town or make the drive to Wasilla where bars close at 5:00 a.m..
“We feel the ordinance wouldn’t fix anything, that it would add more issues to the problem,” said Ivan Ramos, president of Anchorage CHARR. “I strongly think they’ll be going to midtown,” which would mean more drunk drivers on the road.
Bob Winn, treasurer for Anchorage CHARR, says, “I don’t think it’s a good idea in any way, shape, or form. I think that it forces 2,000 people out on the street an hour early.”
Winn says some of those people, who may already be intoxicated, could go to other bars and cause trouble.
“People working the staffing of those bars have no idea what these people have done before, what they’ve drank, what they’ve done in between the time when they’ve moved from one bar to the other,” said Winn.
CHARR would like to bring back an earlier proposal that would extend closing time. Under a plan that CHARR dubbed “Safety Hour,” bars would stop serving liquor at the current closing times, 2:30 a.m. on weekdays and 3:00 a.m. on weekends, but remain open for another hour.
“With the Safety Hour, people could wait for rides. They could wait for the cab to make two or three or four rounds of running people home,’ said Winn.
Assemblyman Flynn says he initially backed the Safety Hour proposal, but said it lost support because Anchorage Police were concerned about the increased danger to early morning drivers, making the commute to work on weekdays, or to church on Sundays. Police worried that there wouldn’t be sufficient manpower to patrol roads for drunk drivers during those hours.
When Flynn’s measure comes up for public hearing in January, the debate about downtown drinking once again involves a common goal but very different solutions.