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Proposal would extend alcohol serving hours

ANCHORAGE (AP) — An Anchorage assemblyman has proposed allowing bars and restaurants to serve alcohol earlier in the morning.

Assemblyman Eric Croft proposed the idea, saying the extended serving hours could benefit tourism and help make a proposed alcohol tax easier for businesses to support, the Anchorage Daily News reported Thursday.

State law allows alcohol to be served from 8 a.m. to 5 a.m. the next day, but Anchorage has tighter restrictions. Under city law, bars and restaurants cannot serve alcohol before 10 a.m.

Croft's proposal would allow alcohol to be served starting at 9 a.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. on weekends and holidays.

The proposal would not affect the hours of package stores or craft breweries, which operate under different rules.

"We're about to ask the liquor industry to pony up some in this town for some of the costs of alcohol," Croft said.

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz has proposed asking voters to approve a 5 percent sales tax on alcohol to support homeless services and substance abuse treatment. The seven taxes on alcohol proposed over the last few decades have all failed.

The city assembly is scheduled to hold a public hearing next month on the tax and consider placing it on the April ballot.

Croft, who supports the tax, said he has spoken to at least one Anchorage bar owner who stated bar owners who would be more open to an alcohol tax if they are allowed to open bars earlier.

While extended serving hours could cause concern about alcohol-related problems, Croft said bartenders and servers are trained to be responsible.

"Let's make sure we have good providers that follow the rules, and on this, I don't see huge harm," Croft said.

If the alcohol tax fails, Croft said he does not plan to drop the proposal.

"I want to have the discussion together, but I don't think I want to make it that much of a quid pro quo," Croft said.