The Berkowitz Administration is bringing down the legal and economic hammer on Kriner’s Diner.
In a filing with the Anchorage Superior Court, the mayor is asking that the diner and the restaurant’s attorney be ruled in contempt of court and fined $15,000 a day for every day it remains open in defiance of Emergency Order 15, which the mayor enacted 10 days ago, closing all restaurants to indoor dining for the entire month of August.
The only indoor dining allowed in Anchorage is at the Anchorage Airport, where service continues with social distancing and enhanced protective measures. It is on State property, out of the reach of the mayor’s power.
Judge Eric Aarseth on Friday ruled in favor of the Municipality, which asked for a temporary restraining order to force the restaurant at C Street and Fireweed Way to close. The judge wrote:
“The Plaintiff has demonstrated that the Anchorage public will suffer in-eparable harm by allowing businesses such as Kriner’s Diner to violate Emergency Order – I5. Specifically, that indoor dining exacerbates the risk of the spread of COVID-19. If infected with COVID-19, individuals face a significant risk of serious harm to their health to include death. The economic interests of Kriner’s Diner and businesses similarly situated are adequately protected by the ability to continue business operations by serving food outdoors, curbside, to-go orders or for delivery.”
But on Saturday, the food kept being served at Kriner’s Diner and the mayor’s attorneys were drafting language to get a contempt-of-court order for actions the city calls “egregious.” Andy Kriner says if he is forced to close again, he doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to reopen.
The municipality used postings in the Facebook group called “Save Anchorage” to demonstrate that the action was willful, and quoted a post from the Kriners’ attorney, Blake Quackenbush, who cited it as a peaceful protest of an historic nature.
The municipal attorneys further cite that Quackenbush himself is encouraging his clients to disobey the court order. The attorneys quoted Quackenbush’s writing on Facebook, “We have a right to work and support our families and communities. Please, if you are healthy, get out and go to businesses and encourage businesses to have the courage to work. It’s crazy to think that we are fighting for a right to work and support our families.”
The Municipality is also seeking sanctions against Quackenbush for not advising his clients to follow the law.
The mayor is not seeking jail time for Andy Kriner and his wife Norann Kriner, but does seek a fine of $5,000 a day for each of them and $5,000 per day for their attorney, for a total of $15,000 per day, plus over $1,400 in legal fees for the city.
The public has shown broad support for the Kriner’s in their quest to keep their restaurant open during the mayor’s emergency shutdown of all in-dining establishments. The mayor says the city is in a precarious place with COVID-19 and that restaurants and bars must close their doors to all but take-out and outdoor dining. All other businesses remain open, but he has ordered people to work from home. There is no evidence that his administration is enforcing that portion of his order.
In addition to lines of people wanting to dine at Kriner’s to support the restaurant, an MRAK poll on Facebook has gone overwhelmingly in favor of the Kriner’s, with over 5,200 votes logged so far. The poll ends Tuesday:
In response, as of Monday, the restaurant will only do limited take-out food. There’s no beating City Hall on this one for the Kriners.
A protest is planned for Tuesday at the Loussac Library, where the Assembly meets. The protests is general in nature, but the emergency orders of the mayor are a key feature. A large crowd is expected to attend the protest, which will take place prior to the Assembly’s regularly scheduled meeting.