Police opposition delays Bergmann Hotel liquor license

Assembly asks hotel owners to work out agreement with Gummow

Posted: Tuesday, August 10, 2004

With the Juneau Police Department opposing a proposed liquor license for the Bergmann Hotel's bar, the Juneau Assembly Human Resources Committee recommended Monday that police and the owner work together on a possible agreement allowing the license with conditions.

"The applicants have made a compelling case, but still our experts have recommended that we protest this case," committee member Randy Wanamaker said.

Human Resources Committee Chairman Stan Ridgeway recommended they delay action on the issue and let the parties work out an agreement. The issue will come before the committee again on Aug. 23.

Although seven people spoke in favor of the license Monday, the committee heavily weighed the comments from one: Juneau Police Chief Richard Gummow. He recommended the committee protest the license because he said it would increase alcohol-related incidences and cost taxpayers.

"Our concern is it is inevitable that a bar with no food or a restaurant will create alcohol-related problems in a residential neighborhood," Gummow said.

Bergmann Hotel co-owner James Barrett, a real estate attorney, had support from some members of the legal community who advocated for the license.

Pat Conheady, an attorney who represented the previous owner of the hotel, said the area is primarily commercial, not residential.

Julie Willoughby, a defense attorney who lives downtown, said a bar within walking distance of people's houses would help reduce the number of drinking and driving incidences.

Proponents of the bar say the Bergmann's higher-priced drinks would draw a more professional clientele unlikely to create police incidents.

The bar was open for about six weeks last winter before the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board closed it because of its proximity to the Juneau Community Charter School.

During that time, the bar drew customers who were unlikely to cause a police disturbance, bar proponents told the committee.

Many of the drinkers worked in the legal and fire professions, bartender Johanna Sebold said.

Some patrons would walk in, see an attorney who prosecuted them and walk out, Sebold said.

Senate Partnership Inc. in Juneau filed an application to transfer its liquor license from The Penthouse, a bar on South Franklin Street, to the Bergmann on Nov. 24, 2003. 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. The Assembly originally approved the license without protest.

State law requires that the entrance to a bar be more than 200 feet from a school. Charter school officials showed that was not the case, and ABC shut down the bar. The police department measured the distance between the bar entrance and school at 165 feet.

Barrett has since closed the original bar entrance on Harris Street and would have patrons come through the main entrance on Third Street. The change puts the entrance outside the 200-foot limit, but Gummow says the Bergmann still should not have the license because of a history of alcohol-related incidents.

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.

An unknown gunman fired several rounds at a second-floor window of the Bergmann in June. No one was injured in the incident.

The ABC Board typically gives strong weight to a municipality's decision, ABC Director Doug Griffin said earlier Monday.

If the Assembly does not grant the license, or if the applicant finds conditions set forth as being arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable, the applicant can have the five-member ABC Board review the case, Griffin said.

If the applicant is still dissatisfied with the ABC Board decision, it can have a state-appointed hearing officer weigh the case, he said.

Finally, Senate Partnership could go to state Superior Court for a decision.

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

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