The Fairbanks City Council, at a crowded and prolonged meeting Monday night, rescinded its protest of the renewal of the state liquor license for local country bar The Spur.
Among the factors that turned the opinions of the council members were the dozens of the bar’s patrons who came out in support as well as lengthy testimony from the bar’s owners.
At the Dec. 2 meeting, council members protested the renewal of The Spur’s liquor license because there were 89 police contacts at the bar’s address over the previous year. Several council members felt the bar owners needed to take responsibility for the safety of patrons and create a safer environment. No representatives of the bar were available that night to speak on behalf of The Spur.
The bar’s owners pointed out that calls to the address of The Spur went down dramatically after they bought it. They spoke at length about the variety of safety measures taken by management and staff and said they were working to make a community-oriented, safe business. The safety measures they listed included roving security, a high-tech $10,000 camera system and doing a “soft close” at the end of the night to prevent conflict.
Councilwoman Valerie Therrien, a day after the initial protest vote, submitted a request to reconsider the protest as a courtesy to the owners of The Spur. The council voted to reconsider and in the second vote on the matter all council members except for Councilwoman Shoshana Kun voted to waive protest.
Bar owners Jori Clawson, J.D. Clawson and Nicholas Nyquist came to the Dec. 9 meeting with a clear message: The Spur is safe and is getting safer all the time. A call to arms over Jori Clawson’s Facebook page filled the room with patrons of The Spur, five of whom spoke during public comment.
The women who spoke said they felt safe at The Spur, because the bar pats down customers, uses the “angel shot” system, and is located close to a large hotel, where inebriated customers could get a room if too drunk to drive.
Angel shots are a drink code specifically targeted toward women. There is a list in the women’s restroom which details different cocktail names, which, if ordered at the bar, will trigger bar security to escort a patron out to their car, remove a person who is making the orderer uncomfortable or otherwise covertly signal to the staff that the woman needs help.
Jack Lanam, a local musician who plays at The Spur, said he felt the bar was professional and that if the liquor license was removed, “the rowdy crowd will go somewhere else.”
Lt. Greg Foster of the Fairbanks Police Department spoke at the Dec. 2 meeting to the effect that there were quite a few calls to The Spur and that though ownership of the bar had changed since it was called Kodiak Jack’s, it still wasn’t a safe place to go. However, he said at the Dec. 9 meeting that he had followed up with the officers currently working the midnight shift and that those officers said there had been a great change to the location since the new owners took over.
Therrien said that while police calls had gone down, she would like to see the police contacts at The Spur go down even further and gave the owners a target of 45 calls for next year.
Councilman Jerry Cleworth then gave the council a second “note to self,” saying they should have gotten testimony from more than one source and that there were no departmental protests of The Spur.
“In the future, we need to be on the same sheet of music,” Cleworth said.
The liquor license for Tony’s Sports Bar, which is located in the same building as The Spur, also came up for review Monday night. The council chose to waive protest.
Contact staff writer Cheryl Upshaw at 459-7572 or find her on Twitter: @FDNMcity.