City requests contempt of court hearing after Anchorage restaurant challenges judge’s ruling

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The Municipality of Anchorage on Saturday requested a contempt of court hearing after a local restaurant challenged a judge’s decision to halt food service inside.

The city’s petition asks the judge in the “extraordinary contempt penalty” case against the restaurant, Kriner’s Diner, and its owners. The city’s motion also accuses the restaurant’s lawyer, Blake Quackenbush, of “actively encouraging and participating in the ongoing violation” and argues that it should be sanctioned by the court.

In his Friday order, State Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth wrote that the public would suffer “irreparable harm” if companies like Kriner were allowed to violate the city’s Emergency Order 15 , which last week blocked meals inside restaurants and brasseries. The city order aims to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

On Saturday morning, Kriner’s Diner was open, with a line of patrons waiting outside. The restaurant has been packed all week with diners supporting its position against the city order.

“We are incredibly disappointed that they continue to choose to flout the law when they already have the attention of the superior court and can spend the day in court arguing that the emergency order no. ‘is not valid,’ said a written statement from Carolyn. Hall, spokesperson for the city.

“The idea that Kriner should be safe from emergency orders issued to protect health and safety in our community ignores the reality most people in Anchorage endure: our children are not going to school in person; our defendants do not benefit from jury trials; our grandparents in assisted living homes got stuck inside waiting for the rest of us to make the community safe enough for us to hug our grandchildren; and our epidemiologists and hospitals have warned that we may run out of intensive care beds next month if July’s trends continue, ”the statement said. “In this new world, when community transmission of the virus is rampant, it is reasonable for our residents to expect leaders to take the necessary steps to preserve life and health in a community, including asking this restaurant to temporarily rotate for take out, deliveries and al fresco dining. “

Customers wait outside the Kriner’s Diner on Saturday August 8, 2020 in Anchorage. The restaurant, owned by Andy and Norann Kriner, continues to serve customers inside after the mayor issued Emergency Order 15, which went into effect on Monday and banned indoor dining in public areas. restaurants and brasseries, but allows them to continue the take-out service and alfresco dining. The command also closes all bars. (Loren Holmes / DNA)

The diner was represented by lawyer Quackenbush of Blake Fulton Quackenbush Family Law.

“We have a great client with a great company and we have no further comments at this time,” said Katie Payton, administrator of the firm on Saturday night after the city’s complaint was filed.

Andy Kriner, who owns the restaurant with Norann Kriner, could not be reached immediately for comment on Saturday night after the city filed.

During Friday’s hearing, Quackenbush argued that the city had also failed to show evidence that business practices at Kriner’s Diner contributed to the spread of COVID-19.

A waiter and customers inside Kriner’s Diner on Saturday August 8, 2020 in Anchorage. The restaurant, owned by Andy and Norann Kriner, continues to serve customers inside after the mayor issued Emergency Order 15, which went into effect on Monday and bans indoor dining in public areas. restaurants and brasseries, but allows them to continue the take-out service and alfresco dining. The command also closes all bars. (Loren Holmes / DNA)

Quackenbush argued that the emergency order violates the Alaska Constitution because it denies the Kriners their right to work. He also said the city gave Kriners and other restaurateurs “disparate and unequal treatment.” Other employers who run similar businesses where wearing masks cannot be practically observed, such as gyms, have not been similarly closed, he said.

City attorney Kate Vogel said at a community briefing on Friday afternoon that “if someone wants to challenge the constitutionality of a law, of course they have the right to do so, but they don’t. has no right not to comply pending this judicial resolution.

Previously, Kriner had challenged the idea that opening the restaurant endangered public health.

“If I thought I was putting someone in danger, I wouldn’t open. I just don’t think I am, ”he told the Daily News last week.

Earlier on Saturday, Kriner said he would lose half of the restaurant’s income by using only take-out. He said that “it would just be a slow, quiet death in the restaurant business if you were just doing take out. You will eventually not get there.

In his contempt motion on Saturday, city lawyers said they were not seeking to jail the defendants. Instead, they want to make sure the restaurant stops food service indoors “to protect the health and safety of Anchorage residents.” By staying open, the defendants “knowingly incurred” a city fine of $ 600 each day, according to the documents. But that was insufficient to prevent them from operating restaurant services, the motion says.

So the municipality now wants an order with a fine of $ 5,000 per day for violating the order, in addition to other fines.

The petition argues that Kriner was aware of the judge’s decision, but continued the service inside, based on an interview posted to Facebook on Saturday.

The city maintains that Kriner’s attorney, Quackenbush, “actively encourages and participates in the ongoing violation.” The lawyer posted a video on a Facebook group on Saturday showing a packed dinner with the caption “Americans peacefully protest in historic sit-in!” Breakfast is served. “

Quackenbush also commented on the post, according to the documents, saying, “We have the right to work and support our families and communities. Please if you are in good health get out and go to businesses and encourage businesses to have the courage to work. It’s crazy to think that we are fighting for the right to work and to support our families!

According to court documents, a city lawyer called Quackenbush on Friday after hearing that Kriner’s was continuing to dine despite the order and “advised that he had told his client to obey the court order.” Quackenbush said he did not see the order, according to the documents, so the lawyer sent him a copy. He replied that he had told his customers to follow the order, according to the documents.

However, the documents indicate that, based on his social media posts on Saturday, “Quackenbush is actively working to undermine the court order and the OE-15, although he has acknowledged that he is his. duty to inform his client not to break the law.

The city is seeking a financial penalty against Quackenbush at the discretion of the court, according to documents, because of his “shocking behavior.”

By posting the video of the interior of the restaurant and displaying an approval of Kriner “willfully disobeying the court order”, Quackenbush “knowingly violated” the court order, the emergency order and the rules of the court. Alaska professional conduct, according to documents.

In addition, he “affirmatively encouraged others to commit behavior which he knows to be illegal”.

His follow-up comment on the post shows that Quackenbush “knowingly aided or instigated his client and others to violate or attempt to violate the court order,” which the motion says can be punished.

Asked about the court’s decision on Friday at a community briefing later today, Berkowitz said at a briefing on Friday that it was a “heavy day” and that he was not happy with the decision because Alaskans should be able to resolve issues without recourse to litigation.

“I think the importance of being able to protect public health through these public health orders is so important that the law should apply to everyone,” he said. “And if we want it to be as effective as possible, everyone has to comply with it.”

The crackdown on the city’s pandemic policies is increasing. Anchorage health experts say the risks of a pandemic are also increasing.

Berkowitz said he wanted to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases with a collective effort, in order to relax some of the restrictions. The mayor said he was satisfied with the vast majority of companies complying with the order.

“I know it’s easy to follow the outliers, and that’s what happened,” he said. “And they’ve received disproportionate publicity for what they’re doing.”

The mayor said eating inside was considered “high-risk behavior,” according to the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and said that while the city and the country had better contact tracing , they would be better able to shut down specific businesses. Instead, they make “broad decisions,” based on what is known to be high risk, until they know more.

“Those who politicize the response to a pandemic are really putting public health at risk,” Berkowitz said. “And they also put our economic well-being at risk, and they should be held accountable. There is no partisan benefit in making people sick and perpetuating the pandemic. “

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