City protests liquor licenses at eatery, bar

Posted: Tuesday, March 06, 2001

The city may object to the renewal of two local liquor licenses because the holders haven't passed a fire inspection yet and one owes sales taxes. But the businesses still have time to satisfy the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board before they lose their licenses.

The Juneau Assembly voted Monday to protest the renewal of state liquor licenses for the Sandbar, a bar and restaurant in the Mendenhall Valley, and the Oriental Express Restaurant downtown.

The city in late February said the Sandbar owed about $40,000 in sales taxes, and the Sandbar and the Oriental Express hadn't passed fire inspections in February.

Fire Marshal Randy Waters said the violations from the initial inspection are general maintenance items and aren't very significant, but the city hadn't heard back from the businesses about getting reinspected. The protest to the ABC Board is an enforcement tool, he said.

The Sandbar has until March 7 to be reinspected, and the Oriental Express has until March 8. If the city protests the license renewals to the state beverage control board, it must do so by March 12 for the Sandbar, and March 16 for the Oriental Express.

The businesses would have until the April meeting of the ABC Board to correct the fire code problems and pay back taxes, said Bill Roche, the board's chief enforcement officer. Even then, a business could keep its license and stay open until a formal appeal was heard, which could take most of the year, he said.

"We are certainly not going to close," said Gail Niemi, a co-owner of the Sandbar, which has been in business for about 20 years.

Niemi said she intended to be reinspected soon for the fire code violations.

"There's about four or five little things to be taken care of and we have until March 7 to comply," Niemi said. "Of course we're going to be reinspected."

Niemi said the Sandbar owes the city about $32,000 and intends to pay it back, probably by July. Owners of the Oriental Express couldn't be reached for comment.

The assembly waived its right to protest renewal of 25 other businesses' liquor licenses. Roche said the ABC Board didn't have any concerns of its own about the renewals.

Eric Fry can be reached at efry@juneauempire.com.



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