By Melinda Munson

The assembly protested Bites on Broadway’s new beverage dispensary-tourism liquor application on Jan. 20, listing three reasons it believed the establishment shouldn’t be given the special liquor license.

The assembly cited proximity to a playground, “inadequate proof of compliance with the State of Alaska Fire Marshall for life safety issues when operating as a hotel or short-term rental rooms” and lack of off-street parking.

Nils Davis and Skipper Stovall, owners of the eatery, who rented out the upstairs rooms last season, were hoping to be granted a beverage dispensary license under Alaska Statute 04.11.400. 

The law allows hotels, motels, resorts and similar businesses “related to the tourism trade” that have dining facilities and at least 10 rental rooms to obtain a liquor license if the town’s population is less than 1,501, regardless of the number of current liquor licenses. Skagway currently has the maximum number of beverage dispensary licenses permitted.

Davis and Stovall said they decided to apply for the dispensary-tourism liquor application after speaking with the state alcohol board.

“We are not looking to open a bar that goes all hours into the night. We just want to have a restaurant with the option to have a drink with your meal,” they wrote in a letter to the assembly.

“Our building has a long history of being hotels, inns and bed and breakfast. It was originally built as the Nome Saloon and had room rentals,” they said.

Mike Healy, owner of Skagway Brewing, and Jan Wrentmore, owner of Red Onion Saloon, possess Skagway’s two beverage dispensary licenses which were grandfathered in when Alaska became a state. The two were not in favor of Bites on Broadway’s application, and suggested the restaurant apply for a beer and wine license instead.

“It is our position that this facility does not meet the standard that the traveling public has come to expect of a hotel. A lobby, ten rooms, each with its own private bath and adequate parking is the norm of today’s tourism … this license would set a precedent that could lead to a proliferation of bar licenses in Skagway … Anyone who has rental properties or employee housing above their storefront would be eligible to open a bar under the provision of encouraging tourism,” Healy and Wrentmore wrote in a letter to the assembly.

Citizens expressed concerns with the restaurant’s proximity to Mollie Walsh Park, a popular playground.

Parent Lisa Mandeville submitted a photograph to the assembly, showing Bites on Broadway’s pavilion, surrounded by a four-foot fence, 15 feet from a playground slide.

After the license was protested, Davis and Stovall asked for a public hearing. At the Feb. 16 opportunity to defend, they conceded they could not change most of the factors the assembly found objectionable. 

The couple said they wanted to change tactics. 

“…We would love to go for a beer and wine license,” Davis said.

When Assemblymember Sam Bass questioned the pair about the proximity of the pavilion to the playground, Davis suggested closing off the pavilion or keeping alcohol inside.

“We also don’t want to be the face of the person that has someone drunk yelling at kids,” he said.

Assemblymember Dustin Stone thanked the business owners.

“I don’t think anybody’s worry was ever you two operating a liquor license. It was what might come in after you or the precedent we might set. I just wanted to let you know that we know you guys are absolutely responsible, awesome owners,” Stone said.

The State Fire Marshall informed Shane Rupprecht, Skagway permitting official, that Bites on Broadway “will need to do a full plan review due to the fact that they are changing occupancy classification from employee housing to a hotel” and are “not allowed to be renting rooms at any capacity at this point.”