Alaska News

Homer institution Alice's Champagne Palace to close

As music and conversation rumbled through Alice's Champagne Palace Friday night, it was hard to imagine that the popular venue will soon be closed and quiet. Dinner orders steamed out of the kitchen, Los Holy Santos Gang boomed out some homegrown frontier rock on stage, and friends gathered around worn wooden tables and cool pints.

But come Feb. 2, once the cheers and tears of Super Bowl Sunday have passed, Homer's Pioneer Avenue palace is once again slated for closure.

Alice's, owned by the English Bay Corp. since 2005, has undergone a number of transitions during its long Homer history. Over the years, the bar/restaurant has served as a music and performance venue, attracting artists from around the peninsula, the country and the world.

Performers and patrons alike are disappointed to see the lights go down, Los Holy Santos Gang's Rudy Multz said, when news of the closure first came out.

"Holy Santos Gang is going to miss the wholesome Alice's crowd," Multz said. "Alice's has held a niche for people who don't necessarily want to go home smelling of smoke but still want to be able to listen to live music and dance."

The Friday show was their way of helping to send Alice's out with the style and celebration it deserves, Multz said.

English Bay Corp. President Donald Emmal said closing down Alice's is purely a business decision.

"It just has to do with income and cash flow and things financial," Emmal said.

The fate of the business and the building are as of yet undecided.

"We've talked some about selling the business," Emmal said. "We haven't talked about selling the property."

That means if someone were to purchase the business and liquor license, they would need to find a new palace for the Alice's name to take up residence.

When the English Bay Corp. bought the bar eight years ago, the purchase was assessed at $278,000 and included the building, liquor license and two associated land parcels. According to the Kenai Peninsula Borough, the half-acre Alice's parcel is currently valued at $346,100. The corporation has also owned the adjacent Heritage Hotel since 2003. The Borough currently lists the value of that property at $705,400.

Now that the business is closing, the it is unclear what will happen next with the property.

"It'll take another couple of months to come to some kind of direction we want to go," Emmal said. "We haven't made those kinds of decisions yet. We are sort of in a preliminary state here, deciding what to do."

The corporation is in the early stages of assessing the property and potential business uses, he said. Ultimately, their board of directors will make a decision for the future of 195 East Pioneer.

"I think by the end of January we'll have a direction pointed out for us," Emmal said.

Longtime Alice's waitress Jill Gunnerson and partner Dmitri Kimbrell drafted a petition to circulate on Friday night, inviting patrons to join them in speaking for the spirit of the establishment. It didn't take long to fill the pages with names, numbers and scrawled notes of sentiment for what has long been a place to gather, laugh and enjoy the Homer community.

The petition reads:

"We the undersigned protest future plans that will result in the loss of our beloved bar. Indeed, Alice's is much more than a bar. This establishment hosts auctions, benefits, fundraisers, political and social gatherings and weddings. It is also Homer's premier venue for live entertainment, including comedy, dance, music and theater. All of this serves to enrich the culture and community of Homer.

"In short, Homer's soul lies within the walls of the champagne palace, and we wish to preserve it."

This story first appeared in the The Homer Tribune and published here with permission.

Hannah Heimbuch

Hannah Heimbuch is a reporter for The Arctic Sounder and The Bristol Bay Times-Dutch Harbor Fisherman.