Critics say alcohol control board too lenient

ANCHORAGE — A decision by the Alaska Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to issue temporary permits to a popular Fairbanks club after its liquor license lapsed has some critics saying the board is too lenient.

The issue came up when the board issued “catering” permits to the Blue Loon, allowing the club to stay open after it was discovered that the business had sold drinks without a valid liquor license.

The low-cost permits are meant to allow liquor sales at one-time events such as conventions, picnics and sporting events.

The move has critics saying the new board has become too lenient on bar and liquor store owners, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Jeff Jessee, CEO of the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, accused the board of ignoring the intent of the law and failing to live up to earlier assurances that it would stop using temporary catering permits as stopgap licenses for Alaska bars.

“When the board takes shortcuts or fails to follow the proper rules or procedures, it undermines both their authority and their legitimacy,” said Jessee, who testified at a meeting of the liquor board Thursday in Anchorage.

The Blue Loon’s liquor license expired Feb. 28. The club and concert hall remained open through March and closed briefly after troopers discovered on April 2 that the license had lapsed.

Board chairman Bob Klein and two other members of the five-person board voted by email to issue the permits for the Blue Loon in April, overriding agency director Shirley Cote, according to an agency memo.

Owner Adam Wool asked to open again using catering permits, Cote told the board in a May 2 memo.

Cote wrote in a memo to board members that she advised Wool that the board had decided the catering permits would not be issued in a manner that would circumvent licensing.

Wool asked if he could call board members, who later were polled. Board members Ethan Billings, Marvin Yoder and Klein voted to allow the permits. Wool was told he could seek a licensee to apply for eight one-week catering permits, which could be used back-to-back until his appearance for a new license Thursday.

The board later learned the agency director could have instead issued the business a temporary license until the Thursday meeting, Klein said.

Cote said that’s how she will handle future liquor license lapses.

The ABC Board voted Thursday to resurrect the Blue Loon liquor license.

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