COVID-19 stricken Anchorage wins court ruling in diner dispute

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As COVID-19 cases spike and hospital bed space dwindles in Alaska's largest city, Anchorage officials on Friday won a key ruling in favor of a ban on indoor restaurant dining after a standoff over the issue moved to court.

Customers pack Kriner's Diner, an eatery in midtown Anchorage, Alaska, U.S. August 7, 2020. The diner has remained open to indoor table service in defiance of municipal health rule and a court order issued midday on Friday. REUTERS/Yereth Rosen

08 Aug 2020 02:38PM

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska: As COVID-19 cases spike and hospital bed space dwindles in Alaska's largest city, Anchorage officials on Friday (Aug 7) won a key ruling in favor of a ban on indoor restaurant dining after a standoff over the issue moved to court.

Anchorage city officials this week sued to halt indoor dining at Kriners Diner, a popular eatery that defied an emergency ordinance issued on Jul 31 restricting restaurants to outdoor service and take-out due to a surge in coronavirus infections.

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On Friday, following two days of court hearings, state Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth sided with city officials and issued a temporary restraining order against the restaurant.

The city demonstrated the risks of indoor dining and showed that “the potential harm to the Anchorage public is of such significant importance that the closure of a business would be warranted,” Aarseth said in his order. "A property interest cannot outweigh a person's interest in life."

The diner, however, remained open on Friday afternoon, its tables packed with customers two hours after the judge issued his order. Owner Andy Kriner and at least one server were seen working without masks or gloves.

The diner's earlier defiance of the city's directive had won them hundreds of supporters. Customers filled the restaurant for days, rallied outside the eatery and distributed “We Support Kriners Diner” bumper stickers.

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“We have so much support we are absolutely blown away and we feel your love!” the diner said in a Facebook post on Thursday.

A handful of other restaurants followed Kriner's example, and the city has sued a second diner.

The spread of COVID-19 in Alaska, which seemed to be in check, climbed in midsummer. Anchorage, home to about 40 per cent of Alaskans, now accounts for more than half of the state's 4,200-plus confirmed cases.

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