City orders Kriner’s Diner to close its dining room, owner won’t oblige

Diner owner Andy Kriner stands outside his Midtown Anchorage restaurant on August 3, 2020. Kriner refused to close under a city order meant to slow the spread of coronavirus. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

The Berkowitz administration upped the stakes on Tuesday in a standoff over an Anchorage restaurant that refuses to shut down indoor dining as required by a recent emergency order meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

Municipality workers posted a stop work notice at Kriner’s Diner before noon Tuesday. 

Municipal workers speak with Andy Kriner (center in blue) on Tuesday morning, Aug. 4, 2020 (Anonymous photo used with permission)

Diner owner Andy Kriner confirmed in an interview outside of the restaurant that he intended to stay open despite the order. 

RELATED: For one Anchorage restaurant, a defiant opening brings in crowds

“I don’t think it’s gonna kill everybody,” Kriner said. 

The city’s order that again shut down dine-in service at Anchorage restaurants, bars and breweries took effect Monday and lasts for four weeks.

On Monday, Kriner’s Diner kept serving customers inside. And, on Tuesday afternoon, the diner was crowded again, with a 20-minute wait to get a table.

Kriner said he spoke with Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz earlier in the day. He said the conversation was amicable and Berkowitz is a “nice guy,” but he doesn’t see them reaching an agreement. There are things that the two fundamentally disagree on when it comes to the coronavirus, he said.

At about 1 p.m. on Tuesday, August 4, diners had a wait time of about 15 minutes to enter Kriner’s Diner. Owner Andy Kriner said that Tuesday was the busiest it’s ever been. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

Mathew Myers, a construction worker waiting outside, said he thought fears of the virus were overblown and fabricated for political gains. 

“They want to create misery to get Republicans out of office, especially Trump,” he said. 

By 1:15 p.m., Kriner posted on the diner’s Facebook page that the restaurant had to close early because it was so busy it had run out of food and needed to restock.

“Well Anchorage, we just realized we don’t have enough food to feed the whole city due to the OVERWHELMING support of you ALL!!!” the post said.

A customer removes the red stop work order sign from the door of Kriner’s Diner as he videos himself with a cell phone. He later returned the sign to the door. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

Kriner wrote that the restaurant would reopen Wednesday at 9 a.m.

It is unclear exactly what type of enforcement might happen next.

The city has said it will pursue all available enforcement options, and in an emailed statement on Tuesday evening, Berkowitz spokesperson Carolyn Hall said there could be fines and additional penalties after a stop work order is issued. She wrote that fines will accrue on a daily basis for violators and that they may be disqualified from future stimulus or relief funds.

“Flagrant violations of Emergency Orders needlessly increase the public health risk to employees and customers, and divert public resources from the more pressing needs of the community,” she wrote, adding that the vast majority of businesses are complying with the order.

Kriner said he was told that he faces a $300 fine each day he stays open. But, he said, the increased patronage of his restaurant more than made up for that. 

“It’s the busiest day I’ve ever seen,” he said. “And people are really excited that we decided to take a stand.”

This story has been updated to include the city’s response.