A few weeks before his second shutdown of the Anchorage business community, the Berkowitz Administration and the Downtown Partnership had blocked off an entire street in Anchorage to allow Crush, a wine bistro associated with his businesses, to set up tents and tables in the public right of way so the wine bar can continue business, even under mandates.
Crush has several owners who also share business interests around Anchorage with Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, who on Friday issued the mandate that all restaurants and bars in Anchorage must close for dine-in service.
It’s the second time he has done so since March, and many restaurants have already closed for good.
Only outdoor beverage and food service is allowed for the next four weeks. But since the mayor has blocked G Street, Crush has some leeway for the last month of summer, when dining outdoors may be possible in Anchorage.
Crush shares the same business address as a company owned by Joseph Dugan and Laile Fairbairn. They operate under the company name of Top Hand Industries LLC and, in corporate filings with the state, appear to own 50 percent of Crush. Fairbairn also lists herself on LinkedIn as a co-owner of Crush.
Fairbairn and Dugan own other restaurants with the mayor, and there are other businesses connected with the Crush address, such as G Street Partners. In corporate filings, the same names keep showing up on many records for a group of connected restaurants — Spenard Roadhouse, South Restaurant, and Snow City Cafe.
Stars of Gold LLC, which owns Spenard Roadhouse, has its business address at Crush.
Dugan, Fairbairn, Berkowitz, and Berkowitz’ wife Mara Kimmel, along with several other partners, own Stars of Gold LLC. Their trendy joint at 1049 Northern Lights Blvd. has outdoor dining able to help the company withstand the mayor’s latest mandate.
Field of Blue LLC is also owned by the same consortium that includes Dugan, Fairbairn, Berkowitz, and Kimmel. Its business address is also at Crush.
Dugan and Fairbairn are partners with Berkowitz and Kimmel in South Restaurant, which also has outdoor seating in a private courtyard, and can expand seating at its location under the awning or in its parking lot.
These restaurants may fare well under the current mandate because the owners would have known in advance what the mayor was about to do and had time to clear out their inventory — information other restaurants didn’t have. According to the head of CHARR, the bar and restaurant association, restaurants were caught by surprise when the Friday EO-15 bomb was dropped by Berkowitz.
Berkowitz and Fairbairn are also partners in Let It Snow LLC, which owns Snow City Cafe. The restaurant at the corner of L Street and 4th Avenue will have a tougher time under the mayor’s mandate, as it’s unlikely the mayor can block off the street at the busy corner.
While the mayor has put severe restrictions on all restaurants and bars — mandates that his own restaurants may survive — entities owned by the mayor have been significant beneficiaries of up to $3 million in PPP low-interest loans from the federal government. Some portions of these loans are forgivable under certain circumstances.
Stars of Gold LLC, South Restaurant, and Snow City Cafe each received between $350,000 and $1 million from the federal PPP loan.
Many other restaurants in Anchorage do not show up in the loan database that was released publicly last month, either because they didn’t apply, or because they received less than $150,000 in loans to help them through the economic crisis. Information on smaller loans were not released by the federal government when it posted the information.
According to Mayor Berkowitz’ Public Offices Financial Disclosure, he and his wife each earn up to $20,000 per year in dividends from Spenard Roadhouse, and up to $5,000 each from South Restaurant. Berkowitz earns up to $20,000 per year from Snow City Cafe dividends. In all, he and Kimmel reported up to $70,000 a year in income from these businesses.
While August will be a trying time for all small businesses in Anchorage, restaurants and bars will be hit hard.
Those who have already set up outdoor dining might survive, but August nights get chilly in Anchorage, and only the strongest companies may weather this Berkowitz business blitzkrieg.
Ostensibly, the closure of G Street was orchestrated and approved by the Downtown Partnership, which is a nonprofit that works closely with the mayor. On the board of directors is … wait for it … Laile Fairbairn and Mayor Ethan Berkowitz.