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Bergman seeks to open a bar despite protests

Hotel owners plan to change bar entrance to comply with state law

Posted: Thursday, May 20, 2004

The Bergman Hotel's plans to reopen a bar are on hold after state officials denied a liquor license application because of its proximity to the Juneau Community Charter School.

Senate Partnership Inc. stated on its application that the closest school was one mile away. The bar actually is 157 feet from the charter school.

That violates a state law that requires the door of a beverage dispensary to be farther than 200 feet away from the front door of a school, Alcohol Beverage Control Board Director Doug Griffin said Wednesday. Further, the applicant stated the bar is 400 yards from the closest church, but Episcopal Church of the Holy Trinity is much closer, he said.

Bergman co-owner James Barrett has plans to change the bar entrance from a side door on Harris Street to the main hotel entrance off Third Street so it's outside the 200-foot limit, he said Wednesday.

While the Bergman then would be within the law, the issue centers on whether the bar is compatible with a dense residential neighborhood that has two nearby schools and a church, Griffin said. The Montessori Adolescent Program, an independent school of 20 students, is located in the same building as the charter school.

Opponents assert the neighborhood is no place for a bar in a hotel that has had past problems with patrons abusing alcohol and drugs.

"We don't want to have kids exposed to people with chronic problems with alcohol," charter school secretary Ernie Mueller said Wednesday.

"The reopening of a bar would be a disservice to the hotel's patrons themselves, some of whom on an ongoing basis demonstrate, rather graphically, serious problems with alcohol abuse," the Episcopal church's senior warden James Wakefield told the ABC Board in an April 23 letter.

In February, a woman fell from the third-story window of the hotel onto a neighbor's roof after she and her boyfriend became intoxicated.

"That was really unfortunate, but she's not going to stay here anymore," Barrett said.

The problem, Barrett said, is the reputation of the 45-room hotel, not the bar itself.

He is prepared to argue that the Bergman has served alcohol over the years since it opened in 1913. Barrett, who purchased the hotel in 2001, is trying to upgrade the business, he said. He welcomes neighbors to talk to him about plans for the hotel, he said.

Barrett put screens on room windows, improved outdoor lighting, has plans to replace the carpeting in the main hall and is installing 16 surveillance cameras, he said.

"They have the impression that the Bergman is the same place it was 10 years ago," Barrett said. "It is not."

He plans to operate the bar from 4:30 p.m. to midnight seven days a week. He wants to attract professionals by playing jazz and serving high-end alcohol at $5 or more a drink. The bar, located in the basement of the hotel, has the capacity for about 35 people.

Senate filed an application to transfer its liquor license from The Penthouse, a bar on South Franklin Street, to the Bergman on Nov. 24, 2003, Griffin said. Senate would hold the liquor license and lease the bar space from Barrett.

The ABC Board issued Senate a temporary operating license on Jan. 22, 2004, but then shut down the bar in March because Senate had filed incorrect information on its application, Griffin said.

Jeff Grant, the secretary-treasurer of Senate Partnership, told Griffin and Barrett he thought the charter school was a day care center, they said. Neither Grant nor his father, Hugh, president of the company, could be reached for comment Wednesday.

The ABC Board ordered Senate to rerun a newspaper notice of its application for three consecutive weeks, to repost the application in two conspicuous locations for 10 days and then submit a corrected application, Griffin said. Griffin said he is waiting to get the corrected application.

The ABC Board has 10 days to review it before it goes to the Juneau Assembly for an additional 60-day review.

• Tara Sidor can be reached at tara.sidor@juneauempire.com



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