Fairbanks City Council protested the renewal of local liquor store Thrifty Liquors’ liquor license Monday night. At issue were the many law enforcement calls to the store and frequent contacts with the Emergency Service Patrol.
Owner Rudy Gavora spoke forcefully to the council, stating that his company, Market Basket, which owns Thrifty Liquors as well as five other local establishments that sell liquor, had never lost the ability to sell in Alaska.
Gavora said he was “kind of offended” about the possibility of protest as he said his store paid millions to the city in property, liquor and tobacco taxes. He also said that Thrifty Liquors serves between 2,000-3,000 customers per week.
Gavora said he was not at the previous meeting regarding the renewal of his store’s liquor license, as it had never before been necessary for him to be present. He also stated that the store had been in operation prior to rehabilitation housing being opened nearby and that 60 people (were) causing problems for the whole market. Further, he said that police response to calls had not been adequate.
One council member came to Gavora’s defense.
“We bring in Mr. Gavora and crucify him and question him over this issue,” Councilman David Pruhs said. “My goodness. This license, this location, this person is not the issue. This should not have happened.”
Mayor Jim Matherly contested that statement and Pruhs’ strong language, saying that the choice to postpone for more information was a courtesy.
A motion to protest the liquor license was held over from the previous meeting but was withdrawn by Councilman Aaron Gibson.
Pruhs made a motion to waive protest. The motion was seconded by Councilwoman June Rogers. The two council members gave the only “yes” votes to the motion.
There was some confusion among the council about what the vote meant. According to city attorney Paul Ewers, voting not to waive protest was a protest. Councilman Jerry Cleworth pointed out that though the council had officially protested the license, they were not the final authority: the protest was merely a recommendation to the state licensing board. He went on to say that the board may choose not to take the recommendation into account.
Matherly said that in the 10 years he had been involved in the City Council, there had never been a liquor license protest.
The item is the latest in a string of long discussions and near-protests about the liquor licenses of local establishments. Late last year, The Spur’s liquor license was also questioned and earlier Monday evening, a lengthy discussion about The Mecca’s liquor license ultimately resulted in a waiver of protest.
Contact staff writer Cheryl Upshaw at 459-7572 or find her on Twitter: @FDNMcity.