Anchorage re-examining train car addition to bar

Posted: Tuesday, June 20, 2006

ANCHORAGE - City officials want to take a second look at a bar owner's plan to attach a rail car to the second floor of his building.

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Allan Choy says adding the double-decker Alaska Railroad car to Al's Alaskan Inn, now on blocks in the bar's parking lot, would create a tourist attraction.

"I'm doing something good for the city, you know," he said. "It's going to be a destination point because of the attraction."

But building official Ron Thompson had ordered work on the project stopped. Thompson said when his office issued a permit, it had been misled by Choy.

The city says the bar, with 400 customers some nights, will not have enough parking spaces if Choy adds more bar seating in the train car.

When Choy got the permit, Thompson said, "he specifically verbally told me and others ... that the required parking would not be increasing." Thompson believed the train would be used as an Arctic entryway.

Choy said he has complied with all the rules.

"Everything was correct when I did it," he said.

Al's Alaskan Inn is a U-shaped, two-story white building west of the Old Seward at 79th Avenue.

Colored signs are painted all around the exterior on a yellow canopy that runs over the top of the first floor. The train, Choy said, would add beauty.

"It's gorgeous. ... When it's done, it's really going to attract tourists."

Also, he said, the train car would be a good setting for playing Texas hold 'em, a form of poker.

Two Anchorage Assembly members, Dick Traini and Dan Coffey, have proposed to change city law so that Choy's customers could park across 79th street at a commercial building. Current ordinances say joint parking use with another business has to be between adjacent businesses, not ones across a street.

Joyce Munson, a potter and former state legislator who is the bar's nearest neighbor, said parking already overflows the bar's lot. She and neighbors say the assembly proposal will allow the bar to skip the level of normal public scrutiny before a city commission.

City zoning administrator Jerry Weaver said his department is OK with the idea that property owners across small streets could have joint parking agreements, though he is concerned with details of the ordinance. The city wants traffic officials to evaluate such agreements, he said.

Choy said he wants to put the train car, which he said is 85 feet long, on the second story so it doesn't take up parking spaces. He has driven four pilings 30 feet deep, to hold the train, he said.

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Information from: Anchorage Daily News, http://www.adn.com



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