The City of Sitka took steps on Tuesday night to prevent a downtown bar from renewing its liquor license.
The Assembly voted to protest the license at Victoria’s Pour House. The Lincoln Street bar is part of the Sitka Hotel. And the two establishments owe the city nearly $90,000 dollars in unpaid sales and bed taxes.
Shane Snyder runs the business. He says the decline of Sitka’s tourism industry has hurt the hotel and bar.
“This is a debt that I totally plan on paying,” Snyder said. “I want to work it out. Mr. (Jay) Sweeney’s been great working it out with me. Unfortunately, this time of year, right before tourist season, I don’t have a lot of money to put down on it. If I had more, I would. But we are really close to that next step.”
State law allows local governments to challenge a liquor license if the holder of that license owes more than $200 in back taxes. On Tuesday, Assembly members said they didn’t WANT to lodge the protest, but had to hold businesses accountable for turning in the tax money they collect from customers.
“This is tough,” Mayor Mim McConnell said. “It’s an institution on Lincoln Street. We’ve already seen so many places close up, and I’d just hate to see another one close. I’m afraid of pushing you back into a corner and making that happen, Mr. Snyder. I don’t want to see that happen. But we also need to stand firm about the situation.”
Assembly members said they would happily withdraw the protest if Victoria’s Pour House can reach a deal for repayment with the city.
Even if the Assembly’s protest remains in place, Snyder has 60 days to file his response, and the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board then has a series of steps it takes before making a final determination. An amendment by Mike Reif would make the protest official on April 19th, which he said gives Snyder and Victoria’s Pour House an extra 10 days to respond.
The Assembly voted 6 to 1 to file the protest, with only Thor Christianson voting against it.
The Sitka Hotel closed its doors for the winter, but plans to re-open next month. Victoria’s Pour House can continue to do business while the fate of its liquor license is still up in the air.
New rules for dogs
The city and dog owners have reached a compromise.
In December, the Assembly passed a tough new ordinance that bans dogs from the new $2.6 million artificial turf baseball field at Moller Park. Violators faced a fine of up to $300.
But Assembly members last year broke off parts of the ordinance that dealt with other areas of town, after dog owners said there were only so many places to exercise their pets.
Peter Kennedy was among those who worked on finding a compromise for the other parts of town. He showed up Tuesday night carrying a cardboard cutout photo of his Great Dane, whose name is Mister.
“We are good dog owners,” Kennedy said. “You could come to our home and not know we have dogs. There is none (dog waste) in our yard. I would encourage you to support the next two ordinances as written, knowing a lot of people took a lot of time to make it fair.”
The first ordinance keeps dogs off the Moller Park ballfield, and adds the Lower Moller and Krueger multiuse fields, sports fields at Kimsham Recreational Complex, and municipal playgrounds, including Crescent Harbor Park and Moller Park East and West.
The fine is still $300 for having a dog inside the fence at the new Moller baseball field. It’s now $100 for the other restricted areas.
Another ordinance establishes off-leash areas, provided owners are able to control their dogs’ behavior. Areas include the Cross Trail, Vilandre, Keet Gooshi Heen and Kimsham Field One when the fields aren’t being used for sports or school activities, and dog parks. As always, owners are required to clean up after their animals.