Restricted access to military bases hurting local businesses

Posted: Tuesday, September 25, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Restricted access to Fort Richardson and Elmendorf Air Force Base in response to the terrorist attacks on the East Coast is hurting Anchorage businesses that cater to the military.

The Northern China restaurant in the Muldoon neighborhood is usually crowded with a sea of camouflage during lunchtime. On Monday, just two people in military uniform filled a booth near the entrance.

''Eighty percent of our business is military. We don't see them too much lately,'' said manager Joe Kim.

The military cut off public access after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Only people with military identification, contractors or people with a specific purpose are permitted on base.

The restrictions have hurt businesses that normally deliver food to the bases.

''Our business has been cut in half,'' said Tracy Terranova, operations director for Papa John's Pizza on Boniface Parkway. ''The base really controls our business, and you don't realize it until it's closed.''

With only two drivers, waiting at the gate means lost business, so Northern China doesn't even try to deliver to Fort Rich or Elmendorf anymore, Kim said.

Even restaurants that don't deliver are feeling repercussions.

''Normally there's a dining room full of military,'' said Kern Jones, owner of Catfish Haven, a soul food establishment in a Boniface strip mall. ''You don't see any of them now, do you?'' he said, glancing around his near-empty restaurant.

Terranova said she may have to lay off employees if the base restrictions continue. While it's tough on business, she can understand why the military is taking extra precautions, and she supports the effort.

''It hurts, but it makes sense,'' Terranova said.

She predicted business will come back, eventually.

The business will come back eventually, she predicted.

''I've been through this before in Colorado Springs,'' said Terranova, who managed pizzerias there before moving to Anchorage about a year and a half ago. During the Persian Gulf War, access to three military installations in Colorado Springs was restricted. The pizza business plummeted but eventually bounced back, she said.

''Personally I'd like to get a pizza too,'' said Maj. Bryan Hilferty, an Army spokesman at Fort Richardson. He wouldn't say when security levels may be lowered at military bases in Anchorage.

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