'It's not our fault'—Local bar owner says Anchorage alcohol tax would be a mistake

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — Darwin Biwer has owned and operated Darwin's Theory in downtown Anchorage for 37 years. He also sits on the board of the Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association (CHARR).

Over the next three weeks, Biwer will be spreading the word that he believes Proposition 9 would be a disaster for bars in the city.

He's sent out thousands of letters pointing out several portions of the proposal which he refers to as "hidden provisions" and highlighting concerns over whether the assembly would have authority to increase taxes. According to Biwer, the bill gives the assembly a blank check at the expense of the alcohol industry.

"The problem with this alcohol tax — it sounds real good, we're gonna do the good with the homeless and the mentally ill and the chronic inebriates, and I'm all for that," Biwer said, "but they just want to tax the liquor industry, which, it's not our fault."

Biwer says that if the alcohol tax is passed, it will pave the way for more alcohol taxes "as often or as high as they want,"

When asked about Biwer's claims, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz didn't mince words.

"Absolute hogwash," Berkowitz said in an interview with Channel 2 Monday. "The only way to change the taxes is for us to go back to the public."

As far as where the money would go, Berkowitz listed three specific areas:
-Capital projects like detox and treatment beds
-Programs aimed at reducing homeless numbers
-Public safety initiatives.

The Anchorage Economic Development Corporation has gone on record supporting the tax measure, which would bring in an estimated $11 to $15 million per year.

"We need to find a modest new revenue source that can be dedicated to addressing these key social issues that are impacting our overall community," said AEDC President Bill Popp.

KTUU reached out CHARR for an official statement but did not hear back before publishing.

Members of the organization are currently in Juneau advocating on behalf of their industry.

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