Anchorage bars struggle to stay open as pandemic continues to impact business

Published: Sep. 17, 2020 at 6:22 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said there were no immediate plans to relax the set of restrictions that are being implemented to slow the transmission of COVID-19 on Sept. 11. Several of these measures are placed local bars and restaurants by limiting buildings to 50% of their official capacity limit, requiring social distancing and prevention loud music or dancing.

“This is a good place for us to be, at least for the time being,” Berkowitz told members of the press on Friday. "We are going to continue to monitor the situation carefully, track the data the best we can and assess the information that comes at us with the hope that we can relax restrictions even more.”

The mayor also gave limited details about the system that’s currently being set up to provide members of the hospitality industry with CARES Act funding through grants.

“Different businesses will be entitled to either $30,000; $15,000 or $7,000 dollars,” he said. "We are looking forward to finalizing our agreements. These things, unfortunately, take more time than any of us would like.”

Those working to keep their businesses open say the grants should provide some sorely-needed capital; however, some say it might be too little, too late. John “JD” Dave has been working in the local service industry for nearly a decade. His first job was at the Last Frontier Bar in Muldoon, which closed its doors for good in May.

“If they already had that process in place, like ‘Hey, we are going to shut down the bars,’ then right alongside that, it should’ve been, ‘Hey we have to shut you down, but here’s something to get you through,” Dave said.

Dave also says that trying to put together a plan for managing a successful business has been difficult during the pandemic. The frequent changes to rules and regulations and loss of long-time regulars have made daily duties uncertain.

“The lack of sales trends and consistency ... It’s been very hard to build on that," he said. “For right now, we are down a third of our staff. Some days we need them, some days we don’t. You just walk in and you just kind of have to deal with what you get.”

On Thursday afternoon, the communications director for Berkowitz said more information on the hospitality grant program should be available in the next couple of weeks.

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