Grub Stake restaurant in historic hotel to shut down

Posted: Tuesday, January 30, 2001

Nearly 15 years after it opened, The Grub Stake restaurant in the historic Bergmann Hotel is closing its doors for good.

The Grub Stake will sell its last slab of beef Wednesday. Then the downtown space on Third Street will go up for lease, said Pat Barrett, who bought the property in 1968 and has helped run the restaurant since the last owner, his former wife, died in August.

"We're wore out, to be quite honest with you. We're tired," said Barrett.

The death of owner Marguerite Scott, 70, last year initiated the demise of the restaurant. Scott had taken over ownership of the steak house and hotel from Barrett in 1984 after the couple divorced.

"She died last August, and it's time. We're closing out the estate - it's just time," said restaurant manager Helene Keso.

Although the entire building is for sale, the 40-room Bergmann Hotel will stay open, at least until new owners take over, Keso said. Only the restaurant will close. And to loyal patrons with a taste for good beef, it is the end of an era.

"The whole family enjoys that place," said repeat patron Jeff Grant. "I'll miss the good steaks."

"It's the best place to get a steak," said Darin Fagerstrom, a customer for years. "I've never found a more tender steak in this town."

Regular customer Anne Marie Palumbo will miss the secret sauce the chef lavishes on beef.

"Whatever they put on their steaks is really awesome," said Palumbo, who has tried in vain to get the recipe. "It's not like anything I've ever bought."

The Grub Stake always has offered the kind of meatandpotatoes fare patrons might have found 88 years ago.

The Bergmann Family Hotel and Boarding House was built in 1913 by Mary E. Bergmann, a German immigrant who moved to Juneau in 1896. Back then, the Bergmann fed and housed miners searching the mountains for gold. Under Scott's watch years later, the restaurant never strayed far from its roots.

The hotel has had a variety of restaurants since 1913, but Scott changed the cuisine in the 1980s and renamed the eatery The Grub Stake - a nod to the building's past. Grub Stake is a term for money or supplies given by someone to a miner in return for a share of the profits, if the miner struck it rich. Scott was hoping to capitalize on the planned reopening of the AlaskaJuneau gold mine, said Barrett, who continued to help his former wife with the business after she took over.

"It was for the miners, we were hoping that (the mine) would start and it never did," he said.

A step into the restaurant is like a step back in time. In an age when many restaurants strive for light-filled, open spaces, The Grub Stake is notable for its dark, intimate atmosphere. The walls are hung with memorabilia and vintage photographs memorializing miners. The building itself is on the national register of historic places.

Barrett said whoever buys the building will own the old photos and kitchen equipment, and he holds out hope someone will reopen The Grub Stake or another restaurant there.

Eight employees will lose their jobs, but the manager said most already have found other work. Barrett, who has been involved with the business more than three decades, has no plans to retire.

"Retire? It's no good," said Barrett, 76. "I'll do something."

Kathy Dye can be reached at

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