Head of liquor lobbying group faces the latest of multiple DWI charges

Posted: Friday, February 01, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- An Anchorage nightclub owner who heads a lobbying group for bars, restaurants and liquor stores is facing a charge of drunken driving.

It was the latest in a string of DWI arrests and convictions for Frank Dahl, according to a report in the Anchorage Daily News.

Dahl, 56, was arrested Dec. 3 on a charge of driving while intoxicated.

Dahl is president of the Anchorage Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association, a board member of the statewide association, and owner of Blues Central at the Chef's Inn.

He has been an outspoken advocate for the liquor industry, arguing against lowering the legal blood-alcohol limit for driving and against raising the state alcohol tax.

Dahl told the Anchorage Daily News Thursday that he made a terrible mistake when he drove his company car after drinking at a bar Dec. 3. He said he has an alcohol problem and needs help. He stopped drinking after the December arrest and is in a treatment program, he said.

''I'm not denying the accusation at all. I'm doing the same thing that we as an organization, that we as CHARR, recommend to anybody who has this kind of problem. We recommend to individuals that they get treatment,'' Dahl said.

Dahl was pulled over around 11:40 p.m. near Spenard Road by an Anchorage police officer who spotted him driving without headlights and then smelled alcohol on his breath, according to the officer's statements to a court magistrate.

The officer said a test of Dahl's breath showed a blood alcohol content of 0.219 -- nearly three times the state's new 0.08 legal limit.

Magistrate Geoff Comfort ordered Dahl held in jail until someone could be assigned to watch over him.

''I'm in jail?'' Dahl asked on a tape of the court proceedings. ''Are you kidding?'' As the hearing ended he said, ''Let's wait until this election.''

In District Court on Dec. 4, Judge Sigurd Murphy said Dahl had a ''horrible record.''

''I do consider Mr. Dahl to be an extreme danger to the community,'' Murphy said.

Precisely how many previous drunken driving convictions Dahl has isn't clear. They stretch back nearly 30 years in three states.

Assistant municipal attorney Richard Felton gave this history in court: 1973 and 1976 convictions in Alaska, 1987 conviction in Wisconsin, 1990 conviction in Minnesota, and 1996 conviction in Wisconsin. Also, a June 2000 drunken driving charge in Alaska was reduced to reckless driving, Felton said.

Dahl said that the 1987 case was technically a refusal to submit to an alcohol breath test but that he wasn't disputing the message.

''It's too many,'' Dahl told the Daily News. Still, he noted that he hasn't had any accidents or hurt anyone.

On Dec. 5, Dahl got out of jail after agreeing to be monitored by an electronic ankle bracelet and to take the drug Naltrexone, which is supposed to reduce alcohol cravings. He was put under the third-party supervision of his longtime girlfriend. He had to put up $10,000 cash. He can't go into anyplace where alcohol is served, including his own bar and must undergo random breath tests.

Dahl said he believes he can continue to be an effective spokesman for Anchorage CHARR, which has about 90 members. He told the board about his arrest in December, he said, and got a vote of confidence.

John Pattee, a bar owner and vice president of Anchorage CHARR, said Dahl has done excellent work as president. However, he didn't recall a vote of confidence.

''Up to this point, Frank has been a great asset and a great spokesman and a great advocate for the industry,'' Pattee said. But, he said, the group agreed to look more closely at whether Dahl can continue in the position.

Colleagues said Dahl's arrest shouldn't overshadow his excellent community work.

In October, Dahl was involved in a charity auction that raised $19,000 for two groups that help people with alcohol problems. The bulk went to Partners in Progress, a nonprofit group that supports Wellness Court, an innovative specialty court in which misdemeanor defendants can stay out of jail if they get treatment and stay sober.

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