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‘We’ve been in a real dark tunnel for a long time’: Downtown bar owner optimistic with fewer restrictions in Anchorage

A masked patron enjoys a drink inside Darwin's Theory on Monday, March 8, as restrictions on...
A masked patron enjoys a drink inside Darwin's Theory on Monday, March 8, as restrictions on businesses throughout the Anchorage Municipality were eased under Emergency Order 19.(Rachel McPherron // Alaska's News Source)
Published: Mar. 8, 2021 at 4:38 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - On what might be the best Monday Anchorage bars have had in almost a year, Darwin Biwer took off his mask to enjoy a beer inside his downtown dive bar, Darwin’s Theory.

“You probably noticed, I have a big, big smile on my face,” he said. “We’re eight days short of a full year of our first closure.”

Darwin’s Theory has been in business for four decades.

“We’ve had volcanoes, we’ve had earthquakes, we’ve had our share being downtown here, but nothing, nothing close to this,” he said, reflecting on the pandemic that forced him to shut his doors more than once.

At 8:00 a.m. Monday, the municipality’s latest emergency order went into effect, doing away with a 50% capacity limitation for businesses in the hospitality industry, including restaurants and bars.

Some things haven’t changed. Customers arriving at Darwin’s Theory Monday entered wearing masks and wrote their contact information in a log that can be used for contact tracing.

Patrons must still stay 6 feet away from others who are not in their party or group, a distancing requirement that means the small dive bar is still limited in its capacity, as there is only so much room inside for people to space out.

Even so, Biwer said the real relief for bars in the order is that they can now serve alcohol until 2 a.m. Under the previous order, alcohol service had to stop at midnight.

“That really hurt us big time,” Biwer said. “A lot of bars downtown rely on that kind of business.”

The bar known to keep popcorn available for patrons recently placed its first popcorn order of the year, another point of hope for Biwer.

“It feels like there is hope that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “We’ve been in a real dark tunnel for a long time.”

Community members out and about Monday had mixed reactions to the changes.

Terry Kimble said seeing businesses closed has been sad and she’s happy to see them operate with looser restrictions: “I think it’s awesome. I think Anchorage needs to open up.”

Others worried the move is premature. Some said they’re still not planning to dine in any time soon.

“I live in a house with multiple people, it’s just not comfortable for me,” said Jenevieve Gray.

Information on the order and how it impacts various industries in Anchorage can be found on the Municipality of Anchorage’s coronavirus response website.

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