Empire Editorial: Keeping the Alaskan Alaskan

Some recent changes at the Alaskan Bar has left some of its employees and patrons both shaken and stirred. Considering those changes came after a reality TV show named Hotel Impossible came to town, perhaps that should be expected.


The Alaskan is a Juneau landmark and has been for generations. When someone new moves to town there’s two things they’re told they should do by locals: go see the glacier and stop by the Alaskan. And not necessarily in that order. During the summer the Mendenhall Glacier draws more visitors than any other place in Juneau. A person could safely argue the same for the Alaskan year-round.

The atmosphere inside the Alaskan, to put it in the simply, fits with what Juneauites crave in a local bar. It’s considered a laid-back place for locals where friends and neighbors can meet up for a pint, listen to some live music, and even bring their dogs, too. It doesn’t matter whether you wear a shirt and tie or Xtra-Tuffs and Carhartts; no one judges you at the Alaskan. And on weekends the live music draws as big a crowd as the drinks, with groups like Deering & Down, the Alaska Bluegrass Band and many, many other talented groups rotating through. Inside it always felt … Alaskan.

Some folks in town, including some former staff members at the Alaskan, say they’re concerned the bar’s atmosphere will change from a local hangout to a tourist attraction due to the changes. Let’s not rush to judgment just yet.

We wish the Alaskan the best of luck in improving its business model and also its long-term success. The owner and management at the Alaskan are looking for a better way to do business, hence their involvement with the show. We hope these improvements will add to the existing qualities that made the Alaskan one of Juneau’s most popular local hangouts.

As for having an increased number of tourists stopping by the Alaskan, we would hope Juneauites would be proud to show off the Alaskan to folks stopping through town. After all, the Alaskan did make Esquire Magazine’s list of “Best Bars in America” back in 2008. Travel writer and former Juneau resident Chuck Thompson declared it “one haunt that’s remained an unadulterated touchstone of northern-strength guzzling” in an area overflowing with tourism attractions.

In regards to the employee turnover reported in Friday’s Empire, we would ask residents to reserve judgment for the time being. Personnel issues are a tricky business and there are two sides to every story. Part of the story appeared in the Empire, but for a better understanding of why some of the changes came to be we will have to wait until the Learning Channel airs the episode sometime next Spring. You never can be sure what the film crew caught on camera that went unseen by the rest of us.

Throughout whatever changes that may be in store, it’s our hope the folks running the Alaskan keep in mind all locals who have helped to make it one of the most well-loved bars in Juneau.


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