A small family-owned diner’s battle to stay open in spite of Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s emergency order that bans all indoor dining is set to intensify this weekend.
On Friday, Aug. 7, Anchorage Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth said the owners of Kriner’s Diner had to abide by Berkowitz’s order and close indoor dining. Despite the judge’s ruling, Andy and Norann Kriner plan to open Saturday morning at 9 a.m.
A notice on the diner’s front door states: “Closed today @ 3:00. We will reopen tomorrow @ 9:00 a.m.”
Andy Kriner was in his restaurant Friday afternoon laying out the plan to his staff. If all goes well, classic American cuisine will be served at 9 a.m. Kriner expects that the municipality will shut off his power, however, if he opens. If that happens, the next move will be to hold a “Freedom BBQ” in the parking lot and give out free sodas and burgers to all comers.
The Kriner’s were never looking for this fight, but say they need to make money to preserve their livelihood and pay their employees, Andy Kriner told the Watchman earlier this week.
The standoff with the mayor began on Monday, Aug. 3, when his 15th emergency order went into effect. Kriner’s opened in defiance of what the owners believe is an unfair imposition on Anchorage restaurants.
“More will be decided soon. Not today,” according to Kriner’s law firm.
Berkowitz’s administration responded by slapping down daily fines of $600 and taking the Kriners to court. Local residents, however, have donated thousands of dollars so the diner can pay the fines and remain open. The Kriners’ stand also inspired three other restaurants, Little Dipper Diner, Jackie’s Place and Wings N’ Things, to open up this week in solidarity. After the judge’s ruling against Kriner’s, Wings N’ Things chose to close indoor dining on Aug. 7 because they can’t pay the fines. Calls to Little Dipper were unanswered.
The Kriners are being represented by attorney Blake Quackenbush of Blake Fulton Quackenbush Family Law. When asked about the Kriners’ next legal move the firm had no comment.
“Our only comment at this time is that we have a great client with a great business and not further comment beyond that right now,” administrator Katie Paton told the Watchman on Friday. “More will be decided soon. Not today.”
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The mayor’s 15th emergency order imposes limits on most outdoor gatherings and restricts bars and nightclubs to takeout or delivery. Restaurants and breweries are banned from indoor service and bingo halls and theaters must close completely. Churches can’t accommodate more than 15 congregants.
Berkowitz has defended his order, saying it is necessary to keep Anchorage safe from coronavirus. As of Aug. 7, the city of 290,000 residents had just 22 people hospitalized with COVID-19. Four of those are on ventilators. Hospital capacity includes 91 available non-ICU beds, 35 ICU beds and 120 available ventilators in addition to 25 pediatric ventilators. Over the past five months, Anchorage has recorded 13 COVID-19 related deaths.