Assembly votes down proposal to strike parts of hunker down order

Published: Dec. 23, 2020 at 5:18 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage Assembly voted 7-3 against a proposal Tuesday that would have rescinded parts of emergency order 16, the modified hunker down.

The proposal, put forward by Eagle River/Chugiak assembly members Jamie Allard and Cyrstal Kennedy, would have struck the order’s limits on gathering sizes and replaced the closures on the hospitality industry with a mitigation plan offered by a group of Anchorage restaurant owners.

“We sat down and we went through all of the mitigation stuff that we could put together operationally,” said Matt Tomter, owner of Matanuska Brewing Company and one of the main authors of the plan.

Titled the “North Star COVID-19 Operation Agreement,” it would’ve seen restaurants reopen at 50% capacity with specific mitigation plans involving masks, testing, and contact tracing. It also laid out a specific process to address businesses that don’t follow the plan.

Anchorage Health Department officials expressed interest in parts of the plan, but recommended against the proposal to implement it immediately, citing a need to see EO-16 through the end of the month.

“We’re in a very concerning position and continue to be cautious in watching our hospital capacity,” said AHD Director Heather Harris.

“We are very interested in exploring the elements of the North Star Plan with the hospitality industry,” she added later.

That recommendation from the health department convinced seven members of the assembly, but the two sponsors of the proposal, as well as South Anchorage Assembly Member John Weddleton, voted in favor, arguing it was a necessary move to reduce the economic impacts of the pandemic and closures.

“We’re really moving this just a bit as far as fighting the virus goes, but it’s gonna go a long way towards helping these businesses that are just getting hammered,” Weddleton said.

Several members of the hospitality industry, including two restaurant owners, spoke during the meeting’s public testimony. They argued that implementing a new plan after EO-16 expires would be too late.

“If drastic changes are not made immediately, I will be closing two restaurants inside of 12 months,” said Alex Perez, owner of Haute Quarter Grill in downtown and Table 6 in midtown, which announced recently it would be closing its doors for good.

EO-16 is now set to expire at 8 a.m on Jan. 1, 2021.

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