Troxel's in liquor license limbo

Assembly asks for extension of renewal process after neighbors complain

Posted: Wednesday, January 27, 2010

In hopes of resolving neighbors' complaints of loud noise and uncouth behavior around the Breakwater Inn, the Juneau Assembly has decided to ask the state Alcohol, Beverage and Control board for a three-month extension of the liquor license renewal process for Q Enterprise Inc., doing business as Breakwater Inn Restaurant & Lounge and also known as Troxel's Steak and Seafood.

The Human Resources Committee met prior to the full Assembly meeting and voted to maintain a protest of the liquor license renewal, a step for which the full Assembly ultimately did not vote. Chairman Bob Doll said the committee wanted to support a successful business but had voted to maintain the protest out of concern the city might otherwise lose the opportunity to ensure the restaurant's progress in addressing neighbors' complaints.

Lawyer Amy Gurton Mead, of Hoffman, Silver, Gilman & Blasco, wrote a letter to the city on behalf of the neighbors in November that said they had experienced problems with patrons urinating along both sides of the street, vomit and trash around their yards, and fighting and wrestling matches along both sides of the street, among other things.

Assembly members also said at the meeting that police have been called to the area much more frequently during the past six months.

Mead's letter said neighbors' complaints and meetings with management had been "to no avail."

Q Enterprise owner Robin Young responded to the complaints in a December letter. "From the beginning it is my sincere wish to build a good working relationship with all who reside nearby our location," he said. "This is difficult to achieve when those writing this document have not made personal contact with me so that I may take necessary action to make things work well for all."

Young cited several positive steps taken to address problems, including an employee designated to pick up litter and trash and an additional three employees hired to control patrons, trash and security on hotel premises.

Young said the Breakwater has also been the victim of vandalism, trash and graffiti. "To blame every misfortune, every traffic problem on Breakwater Inn & Troxel's alone is a severe misrepresentation of what has been an ongoing, historical reality," he said.

At the meeting Monday, Chris Kim, general manager for the Breakwater Inn and Troxel's Restaurant, said other steps the restaurant has taken to address neighbors' concerns were relocating the smoking downstairs to an area facing Egan Drive, hiring a doorman for weekends and busy nights, and a paying for a limousine service to help stop people from driving under the influence of alcohol on busy nights.

"I am supportive of your (Mayor Bruce Botelho's) suggestion to request a delay of the action so time can go by," said Assembly member Jeff Bush, who made the motion to delay. "Short of that, I don't personally see grounds here to sustain a protest. I'm not comfortable putting the burden of proof on the applicant to prove they've met some standard we can't even define."

"Our goal is to have the situation improve. Worst case scenario... is that we are able to protest in the second year of the license. The institution is still on notice that they need to improve," said Assembly member Jonathan Anderson.

Assembly members who voted against the motion did so for different reasons. Deputy Mayor Randy Wanamaker said he would not support asking the ABC board to defer action without an accompanying protest.

"It seems to me that if we defer action on our protest, we give up the one meaningful tool that the citizens have to bring about resolution. I'm not sure that we can afford to trust that things will happen positively without some sort of incentive for them (the Breakwater Inn and Troxel's) to work in a meaningful way not only with the police department but with the neighborhood," he said.

Assembly member Johan Dybdahl, on the other hand, said he thinks the extension creates "too much uncertainty" for the business.

"I would support a motion to waive our right to protest (the license)," he said.

"The ABC Board may or may not afford the CBJ another window... that action is not really in the statute. They do hold things over from time to time, but it's not set out," City Attorney John Hartle said.

Hartle said the business's existing liquor license will continue until the ABC board takes a positive action to revoke it or renew it. They would do so based on "general criteria" establishing that the decision was "in the public good," he said.

Kim said he thinks the complaints are "a good opportunity to create a bridge to agree with the neighbors - to understand issues and possibly change in a good, positive way."

Their first meeting with the neighbors was Monday, he said.

"That's the first thing we're going to do, is to get on the good side of our neighbors," he said. "That's the first thing, and hopefully everything will go well with the ABC Board and we can continue our business."

• Contact reporter Mary Catharine Martin at 523-2276 or maryc.martin@juneauempire.com.



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