Late-Night dining

With the closing of two downtown eateries at the end of the month, where will night owls go for those midnight munchies?

Posted: Thursday, October 23, 2008

The closing of two downtown late-night eateries in the coming days will noticeably reduce food options for Juneau's bar crowd.

Doc Water's and Roll & Roast will be shutting their doors at the end of the month, leaving a section of Merchant's Wharf vacant, and making Pel' Meni the lone place to grab a bite to eat downtown after midnight. The rental agreements with the building's management were not renewed and both businesses have said they will not be relocating.

"I will be closing on October 31st with a little Halloween bash to go out along with the dead," Doc Water's owner Jason Maroney said earlier this month. "We're going to be blowing everything out through the month of October."

Doc Water's, a pub and restaurant overlooking Gastineau Channel, has been one of the few restaurants in town to stay open past 10 p.m. since it opened for business on July 2, 2004. The restaurant's hours are subject to the city ordinance that regulates the closing times for bars, but its kitchen stays open until 1 a.m. It has been the only place downtown to get a quick cheeseburger after midnight for the last several years.

Roll & Roast, a gyro sandwich shop started by an entrepreneurial university student in Merchant's Wharf, has been one of the quickest and cheapest meals for late-night revelers since it opened several months ago. The ample-size sandwiches - made of seasoned meat, vegetables and sauce on pita bread - cost $7 and generally only take minutes to prepare.

"Dude, I'm bummed they're closing," said Kurt D. early Sunday morning after the bars closed. "This (expletive deleted) tastes good, man."

Pel' Meni, the Russian dumpling shop in Merchant's Wharf, has been one of the kingpins of the late-night dining scene in Juneau for years. The lone menu item for $5 continues to bring in the crowds on the weekends after last call.

Ben Richardson of Anchorage said it's difficult for people from out of town to find a place to eat in the capital city after midnight. He ended up at Pel' Meni over the weekend after looking for a place to get a slice of pizza.

"It's pretty good," he said. "It's not pepperoni pizza, but it's pretty good."

Richardson said it would be nice to have more variety in places to eat after 9 p.m. in Juneau.

Downtown Business Association president Ann House agreed.

"We would definitely like to see more businesses downtown," she said. "That's one of our main goals, is to have as many businesses as possible downtown."

A greater selection of food would be better for everyone - businesses and consumers alike, she said.

"I think we need to be a little more diversified in our restaurants," she said.

Juneau Police Department Sgt. Dave Campbell said he is not aware of any ordinances that would limit businesses from serving food late at night.

"Periodically we have businesses that cater to the bar crowds and I guess the big question would be up to economics," he said.

The late-night food scene has continued to evolve since he began working as a police officer in the mid-1990s, Campbell said. The hot spot when he was on patrol back then was the restaurant where the Viking Lounge is today.

"It seemed like at bar-break everyone would head down there," he said.

There have been other late-night eateries downtown over the years as well, like the City Café near the Mount Roberts Tram and the Imperial Restaurant where the present day bar is located, Campbell said.

"It seems like the restaurants slowly over time come and go," he said. "I think it's more of a question of economics."

Some food carts lurk around during the warmer months of the year but are seldom seen when the colder months descend upon Juneau.

Campbell said he did not know how many drunk and disorderly calls the police have to deal with at the late-night eating spots, but said there probably are more than your average restaurant.

"I'm sure they do just because they're open late at night and people tend to congregate there," he said.

"Sometimes just because the bars close they aren't ready to call it a night, so if they have somewhere else to go they're going to go there," he added.

There are a number of places to eat late at night for those hanging out or living in the Mendenhall Valley. The Valley Restaurant stays open all night on the weekends and The Sandbar restaurant stays open well into the evening.

But with the present trying economic times it is unknown if there will be more places in the near future for people to eat downtown after the bars close.

"We encourage more business downtown, absolutely," House said.

• Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or

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