Historic bar in Ketchikan closing

Posted: Thursday, April 10, 2003

KETCHIKAN (AP) -- It will be the last last call at the Fo'c's'le Bar Saturday night. Owner Jamie Elkins, the third generation of his family to run the business, says Ketchikan's oldest bar is closing.

Neither Elkins nor his regulars want the bar to close, he said.

''We've been having a few bad years, and I've still got some debts to get taken care of,'' said Elkins. ''The customers don't want it to close, but there's not enough business to go around, and people's drinking habits have changed.''

Elkins took over the business from his father, Jim, in 1999. Looking back, he said, taking over management then was probably premature.

''I had a lot of things to learn. I just finally started turning the bar around, but it's too little, too late, I guess,'' he said.

A combination of factors has led to the closure, Elkins said, including the recently announced closing of the Ketchikan Five and Dime.

''You know, there aren't that many businesses that have been around as long as the Fo'c's'le and the Five and Dime, he said.

His grandfather, Red, bought the place with a partner in 1968, and Red's son, Jim, came in as a partner in August of that year.

The bar itself was opened in 1936, in a building that was already historic. The original building, in back of the bar, was built around 1898.

The bar was home to the halibut fleet, Jamie Elkins said, which was the source of the idea for having a boat bridge at the back of the bar to this day.

Loggers took to the Fo'c's'le, as well. But they're mostly a memory.

''Gone are the days when you'd get 20 loggers in there on a Friday, each with a $2,000 check, and they'd all be broke by Sunday,'' said Elkins. ''A lot of the loggers got married and settled down even before the closing of the Tongass (National Forest). The rest of them are tramping around the country looking for work.''

The decline of logging is but one factor in Elkins' decision to close the bar. Another is increasing use of illegal drugs.

''I've lost a lot of customers to crank,'' Elkins said.

The state alcohol tax increase didn't help much, either, he said, although he didn't raise prices after the increase went into effect.

Elkins will continue to run the family business, which includes a liquor store. And Elkins says he'd like to open another bar someday.

''I'm gonna miss it, Elkins said, ''As much aggravation as it is, I'm gonna miss it.''

Fo'c's'le is short for forecastle, the enclosed front part of a sailing ship where the crew was housed, often pronounced more like fo'c's'le.

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