Anchorage removes capacity limits on businesses but keeps 6-foot rule

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz at a recent press conference. (Hannah Lies/Alaska Public Media)

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz announced that all businesses will be allowed to operate at full capacity again, starting on Monday, as long as they abide by safety rules.

“We’re going to eliminate the capacity restrictions that had existed. We’re not going to worry about whether establishments are 25 or 50 or 75% open,” he said at a press conference Friday via Facebook Live.

Instead, Berkowitz said the emphasis will be on hygiene and maintaining 6-feet of distance between people. The city’s new “maintenance phase” aligns with the governor’s guidelines, but Berkowitz said the municipality is treating them as “rules,” to assure customers and workers that businesses are looking out for them.

“Having those rules in place helps generate confidence in the market,” he said.

He recommended people wear masks in group settings, particularly indoors, but he did not describe that as a rule.

He also announced that People Mover bus service will resume June 1, with occupancy limits: Nine riders on large buses, four on the small versions. On June 4, city libraries will begin offering curbside delivery.

And Berkowitz said he wants to make it easier for restaurants and stores to move some of their business outdoors, into parking lots, city sidewalks and maybe streets.

Anchorage Director of Economic and Community Development Chris Schutte said shops can already sell merchandise from their parking lots, but they have to follow fire code and access rules. He said he expects to soon provide written guidance – answers to frequently asked questions to encourage more outdoor commerce.

One proposal under consideration is to close two sections of G St downtown – the block that includes the restaurant Crush, and the one to the south that’s home to Side Street Espresso.

“We’ve seen examples across the country where, because traffic counts are lower right now, there’s more room to close certain streets or side streets, for example, and just turn it over to pedestrians and non-motorized transportation and bringing tables and chairs out, things like that,” Schutte said.

Conducting business outdoors allows for good air circulation, and Schutte said it can help restaurants make up for tables they’ve removed inside to meet social-distancing rules.