PUBLISHED: 4:37 PM on Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Alaskan one of Esquire's 'Best Bars'
JUNEAU - The Alaskan Hotel & Bar in downtown Juneau was named one of the "Best Bars in America" in the June 2008 issue of Esquire magazine.

The Alaskan is the second bar in Southeast to make the magazine's list of bars, which started in 2006 and now contains 100 bars. The Office Bar in Hoonah was featured on the 2006 list.

Charles Westmoreland photo
  Alaskan bartender Carissa Frisbee (right) serves up drinks Thursday night as a group of regulars line the bar.
"When (Esquire) got in touch with us and asked us to send pictures, I was surprised," said Bettye Adams, who owns the Alaskan with her husband, Mike. She said the bar had been featured in different publications over the years.

For general manager Joshua Adams, son of Bettye and Mike, there's no question that the bar is unique.

"There hasn't been anything like it in years," he said. "It's an anachronism and if it ever disappeared you'd never get it back."

The Alaskan was built in 1913 with gold mining money. Joshua noted that some of the furniture in the bar is older than the building itself, like the 102-year-old coffee table in the lobby. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

When Bettye and Mike Adams bought the Alaskan with their former business partners in 1977 it was a condemned building.

"It was only open on a limited use (basis) and we've worked 30-some-odd years to improve it," Bettye said.

The work has paid off. The description of the Alaskan in Esquire, penned by JDHS grad Chuck Thompson, complements the bar on maintaining the historic atmosphere while appealing to a wide ranger of clientele and musical talent.

"Deep-woods flannel mingles comfortably with lawyer-wear and matching Orca Deck outfits," writes Thompson. "The small stage is the heart of a music scene filled with talent more impressive than you'd expect in a town of thirty thousand."

The music scene at the Alaskan peaks during Folk Fest, the week-long musical festival held in Juneau every April, when there is a line to get into the bar and jam sessions fill hotel rooms and hallways.

"To me it's the epicenter of Juneau," said Joshua.

Many locals agree, especially in the dark of winter.

"I just really like the atmosphere," said Alaskan regular Michael Studt. "My favorite thing about that Alaskan is that in the crummy weather we have in the winter you can go down there and see friendly faces that are actually smiling."

Despite Esquire's accolades, the Adams family still plans to further improve the Alaskan.

Bettye mentioned the possibility of adding a restaurant or a second bar downstairs, and Joshua is committed to slowly restoring the building "to its original grandeur."

Katie Spielberger can be reached at