Fairbanks City Hall

The Patrick B. Cole City Hall is seen Wednesday, June 17, 2020, in downtown Fairbanks. Caitlin Miller/News-Miner

In a 5-1 vote, the Fairbanks City Council decided not to raise the alcohol tax to 6% from 5% after they heard more than 20 testimonies from the public during the Monday meeting. 

Only the author of Ordinance 6140, councilwoman Shoshana Kun, gave her voice to support it. Voting against the ordinance were City Council members Aaron Gibson, Valerie Therrien, June Rogers, David Pruhs and Jerry Cleworth.  

Kun originally proposed the tax increase to help the city collect additional revenue and ease the tax burden of the property owners.

Among 21 public testimonies, predominantly from the people working in the hospitality industry, 19 opposed the ordinance. 

One of the testifiers, Kurt Newman, said that the raise would put the tax burden on the business sector that suffered revenue losses in the 40% range. 

Other community members echoed Newman’s concern. 

“I can’t see raising the taxes right now since we’ve been out of work for three months,” said John Pearson. “If anything I think you should lower it.” 

“It’s definitely a wrong move at the wrong time,” said Jori Clawson, a co-owner of the country-western night spot The Spur.

Kun and councilwoman Valerie Therrien asked whether the business owners can let the beverage price absorb the tax increase.

“Although the customers will eventually pay for (the increase), they are limited in their funds also,” property and business owner Randall Kelsch said. “You penalize people who consume a little bit of beverage.” 

To voice their thoughts about the tax raise, nine people left their messages in advance and 12 came to City Hall in person. Together with other attendees, testifiers filled up the hearing room that seats up to 30 people, following the COVID-19 safety guidelines. A second room was open to accommodate more community members. 

In other business, the City Council didn’t receive any concerns from the public regarding the marijuana store Good Titrations opening a cannabis cafe. The council members expressed their support to the owners and thanked them for following the required procedures.

Contact Alena Naiden at 459-7587 or twitter.com/FDNMcity.