Alaska bars gear up for post-attack New Year's Eve celebrations

Posted: Sunday, December 30, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- American flags. Fried chicken and apple pie. A rock version of the national anthem.

Nearly four months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, some Alaska bars will hail 2002 with patriotic touches in their New Year's Eve celebrations. Some will feature Outside acts and the traditional champagne and party hats.

Most are expecting the usual large crowds on the biggest party night of the year.

''People are getting out of the slump of Nine-11,'' said Pete Galaktionoff, a longtime bartender at the Elbow Room in Unalaska. ''Right after, people were just down. Now you don't hear much talk about it. Things were pretty upbeat at Christmas.''

Chilkoot Charlie's, one of Anchorage's largest dance bars, quickly bounced back from the somber mood, said general manager Doran Powell. But so many patrons have requested ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' by Canadian rock group Ettinger that Chilkoot's produced a CD of the song.

The $5 disks will be on sale at the club during its New Year's Eve event, which also will feature Ettinger as the headliner act. Money made from the CD will go to a Sept. 11 charity fund, Powell said.

''Budweiser and Chilkoot's paid to make the CD, so 100 percent of the money can go to the victims,'' he said.

In Fairbanks, Club Detour will hand out small flags for people to wave at midnight as they watch the Times Square countdown on 14 television screens scattered throughout the dance bar. Owner Rick Mensik also plans to offer revelers free food, including fried chicken, coleslaw and apple pie.

It's the least he can do, he said. About 40 percent of the bar's clientele is military personnel from nearby Fort Wainwright. The soldiers who frequent the bar don't talk much about the possibility of going to war, but Mensik has noticed a significant change in them -- and others -- since the tragedy.

''People are just a little bit friendlier this year,'' he said. ''And there's more pride in what the military folks are doing. A lot of them used to hesitate a little to say they were in the military. Now they're glad to tell you what they do for living.''

The Hangar on the Wharf, a bar and restaurant in Juneau, is expecting a sold-out crowd at its New Year's Eve show, featuring San Francisco reggae and hip-hop artist, Sister I Live, and her seven-piece band.

Reecia Wilson, one of the restaurant's managers, said she hasn't seen any lingering effect on business from the attacks. That could be because two other local establishments are closed for remodeling.

''We're about the only game in town,'' Wilson said. ''Christmas Eve, we were actually quite surprised that business was up compared to last year.''

Red, white and blue wire Christmas trees will remain through the holiday outside the Riverside House, a Soldotna hangout overlooking the Kenai River. Bartender Debbie Fromberg said patrons will receive such customary provisions as champagne at midnight and party hats, as well as a disc jockey and dancing.

''We'll be packed,'' she said. ''We're expecting a line out the door.''

Not every place has recovered from the shock of the attacks. Only three people showed up the yearly employee Christmas party at Darwin's Theory, a small downtown bar in Anchorage. Bartender Cindy Menichetti said workers talked about it repeatedly but no one could muster up much enthusiasm to organize it.

New Year's Eve will likely be the usual gathering of regulars, Menichetti said. As always, party hats and champagne will be provided and people will toast the holiday with the New York TV crowds.

Beyond that, Menichetti couldn't predict the tone of the night.

''It's definitely different,'' she said. ''A lot of regular customers are in a bad mood. I don't remember anybody biting my head off last year. But as one customer put it, the whole world is kind of hurting right now.''

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