Under renovation: Red Dog expands souvenir business; Cookhouse Restaurant closed

Posted: Tuesday, November 20, 2001

After losing seven parking spaces, including handicapped parking, to construction of the Marine Way turnaround, Don Harris said he decided to let his Cookhouse Restaurant "die a natural death."

Some other recent remodels and renovations in Juneau:

* Henrys, Mendenhall Center: When Tabbys became Henrys earlier this year, owner Robert Harris spent about $50,000 to remove the splintered stalls from the rest rooms and replace them with metal compartments, redo wiring, paint and tile, refresh the lounge, upgrade the kitchen and ornament the kids room with cartoon characters. New carpet is still to come, Harris said.

* Galligaskins, 219 S. Franklin St.: Rod and Gaile Swope, owners of the Miner Publishing Building, sank more than $1 million into the 1907-13-era structure during the winter of 1998-99 to restore it to the elegance of the early 1900s. Renovations included custom-built showcases and period architectural details.

* Viking Lounge, Pull Tabs and Billiards, 218 Front St.: Frontier signs declaring "weddings performed here" are part of the Viking's period remodel, completed June 15. Owners Arlene and Jack Tripp Jr. spent more than $250,000 on the 1915 structure, replacing the entire storefront and restoring the tin ceiling.

* Armadillo Tex-Mex Cafe, 431 S. Franklin: Terry Harvey, owner of the Armadillo since 1985, is giving the restaurant a fresh coat of paint and new flooring at a cost of $6,000 to $8,000. "It's minor renovations. We'll do much of the work ourselves," Harvey said. The business will be closed at least through New Year's.

The restaurant, next door to the Red Dog Saloon, closed for good after the end of the cruise ship season. And Harris, president of Cookhouse Inc. and owner of the Red Dog, decided to use the downturn in restaurant business that came after loss of parking as an opportunity to remodel and capitalize on his growing online souvenir business.

The $1 million remodel job will expand the souvenir business, improve food service in the Red Dog and give Harris and his wife a new downtown residence.

"We have a big hole in the ground and are starting all over again," Harris said.

The current Red Dog and what was the Cookhouse were built at 278 S. Franklin St. in 1987-88.


The remodel won't change its basic footprint, at historic Miners Square, but a second floor will be added to the current arrangement of main floor with mezzanine. The hole in the ground will accommodate a freight elevator. New plumbing will be installed and everything will be brought up to current city building codes.

The full, 4,000-square-foot second story will become a residence for Harris and his wife, Rose, as well as a facility for the mail-order business, said their son Case, who is marketing director.

"The saloon itself is receiving several major upgrades, including a high-volume air system, and we're in the process of renovating and upgrading the food service with a state-of-the-art kitchen," Case Harris said.

Although the Cookhouse is no more, there will still be food service, and the popular 3-pound hamburgers, with or without cranberries, will remain, as will beer-batter onion rings and halibut.

Although only about 70 years old, the Red Dog is designed to resemble a picturesque, Gold Rush-era saloon, the sort of place where balladeer Robert Service would have interviewed old-timers and author Jack London might have downed a few beers.

Before the current Red Dog was built in 1988, "We were a landmark in reputation but didn't have a facility to go along with that," said Don Harris. "I had this building designed to what the tourists' perception was, right down to the shape and configuration of the bar."

Harris estimates half a million visitors drop by the Red Dog every tourist season.

"We had no idea how things were going to grow," he said. "We didn't have the money to put on the second floor back in '87. So really we are just completing our long-term dream. With interest rates dropping, we made the decision that this was the year to make major changes."

A smoking ordinance passed by the Juneau Assembly earlier this year requires that restaurants and bars be physically separated. That ordinance affected his decision to remodel, but was not the main motivation, Harris said.

"The smoking ordinance was just the straw that broke the camel's back," he said. "We wanted to upscale our quality of operation."

Under the new ordinance and state regulations, the saloon area is exempt, so smoking will be allowed there. A combination ventilation and heating system is being installed to keep air fresh throughout.

For the past two years, Cookhouse Inc. has rented space "all over town" to accommodate its souvenir business: T-shirts, glassware, coasters, frilly garters and such, Harris said. Remodeling will create storage as well as space for filling and boxing mail orders.

"Now we will have everything under one roof," Harris said.

Harris has lived in Juneau since 1968. He purchased the Red Dog in 1972, when it was next to the Alaskan Hotel.

General Manager Bruce Legas said that, following renovation, the saloon's new menu will include deli-style offerings, some produced by ovens capable of smoking meats. The menu will expand to embrace up-scale pizza and foccaccia sandwiches, Legas said. However, the children's menu and "many of the old favorites" will still be available.

The current remodel began Oct. 1, the day after the last cruise ship came to Juneau. Weather permitting, Harris would like it to be completed in late January.

Triplette Construction is preparing the Red Dog's new roof in sections, Harris said.

Commuters who noticed last week the roof that seemed to be rising up inside the new windows perched atop Triplette's own shop on Channel Drive near the DIPAC hatchery had a preview of what will happen at the Red Dog, said Robert Donovan, assistant projects manager for Triplette.

"We panelize all of our construction as we are doing at our own shop," Donovan said.

The method is fairly new, but overlaps in some respects with prefabrication, he said. Large roof pieces for the Red Dog will be created at the Channel Drive plant, and then trucked downtown.

The saloon roof, an arrangement of Victorian angles, is the result of a collaboration between Design North and Jim Triplette, Donovan said. The pieces are raised into place by large cranes.

The Red Dog Saloon can be reached at 463-3777 or at info@reddogsaloon.cc. The Web site is www.RedDogSaloon.cc.


Ann Chandonnet can be reached at achandonnet@juneauempire.com.

Trending this week:


© 2018. All Rights Reserved.  | Contact Us