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Valdez Star 

Bottoms up: bars must stop all booze consumption by 2 a.m. cutoff time

Council approves ordinance to shorten hours of bars but falls short of cry for 1 a.m.


August 28, 2018

Steven Weber photo

A sign on display Monday at the The Boardroom in Valdez states the bar closes at 3 a.m. on weekends though no alcoholic beverages are allowed to be consumed legally after 2 a.m.

The days of barhopping all night are over in Valdez.

With a vote of 5-1 last Wednesday, the Valdez City Council rolled back the hours booze can be served on licensed premises from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m.

If votes would have gone otherwise, that time would be even earlier - 1 a.m.

The council's decision to change the hours alcohol can be served first started in a July work session where 3 a.m. was proposed. It was then proposed to move towards 2:30 a.m. - and then 2 a.m. during the regular council meeting that followed the work session.

The 1 a.m. proposed time came from council member Lon Needles after Mayor Pro Tempore Dennis Fleming called for the second reading of the proposed ordinance as required by law; council member Jim Shirrell moved to approve it with council member Darren Reese providing the second.

"I'm not happy with 2 o'clock," Needles said when he motioned for the amendment, "The Chief of Police already said 2 o'clock wouldn't have made any difference to the horrible incident we had. If we are going to do a knee jerk reaction, then we need to make sure it actually does something. We are being asked to manage a business so I hope we do something that is going to help the citizens of Valdez."

The amendment by Needles, which was seconded by Reese and received no other support from council, received significant pushback.

"I was opposed to two so I'm opposed to one as well," said council member Chris Moulton, who was the only member of council to vote against the ordinance change.

"I support the ordinance as it stands but am against the 1 a.m. amendment," said council member Ron Ruff, who voted against bringing up the 2 a.m. ordinance change in the previous council meeting.

Public comments from the floor did not support the amendment that would stop serving alcohol at 1 a.m.

Kathy Molinar from the Eagles Club said, "I don't think City Council should have anything to do with our hours."

Online comments during the Facebook Live feed by the Valdez Star were also against the proposed 1 a.m. change.

"We were asked by a business owner to manage a private business and I agree the city shouldn't be involved," Needles said to Molinar, "but if we are going to be involved we should make it meaningful."

A former manager at the now-shuttered bar, Land Sharks, took the podium.

"We were open until 5 a.m. with very little incident," she said and motioned towards council member Ron Ruff. "Ron you would know. You guys would be in there many times."

After the amendment for a 1 a.m. closing failed, Needles was the first to speak on the 2 a.m. ordinance.

"The only thing I have to say about this is when you start trading liberties for securities, pretty soon you find out you have neither," he said. "That's the only thing I'm going to say about this."

Numerous community members spoke about the ordinance prior to it going to a final vote.

Matt Wadsworth, who is clinical director at Providence Valdez Counseling Center, spoke as a concerned citizen.

"I support the 2 a.m. ordinance," he said. "I really think this is a pretty basic step. We have a problem with alcohol in this community and the status quo."

Wadsworth said change is needed.

"We just can't keep that, we have to do something different," he said. "This isn't going to fix it but this is the beginning. Not passing it is a message that says something as well."

With a vote of 5-1 the era of 5 a.m. as an option for bars to serve alcohol in Valdez ended.

Moulton remained the only member of council to remain opposed to the ordinance change. His opposition stemmed from the 2 a.m. change rather than the originally proposed 3 a.m.


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