Downtown Anchorage's Snow Goose Restaurant, along with Sleeping Lady Brewery, is closing its doors after almost 20 years. The business is being sold to 49th State Brewing Company, which is based in Healy.
Owner Gary Klopfer said the restaurant's last night will be Saturday, Dec. 26, when improv troupe Scared Scriptless is scheduled to perform.
The new owners -- David McCarthy and Jason Motyka -- said they are still figuring out how the next few months will go. In an interview Monday, the two said space at the Snow Goose will still be available for performances and special events while the building undergoes renovations, but how the rest of the restaurant will shape up is a work in progress. They hope to begin regular food service in the spring or early summer of 2016.
McCarthy and Motyka said the 28,000-square-foot facility will be rebranded as the 49th State Brewing Company. The Healy restaurant's head chef will work with Snow Goose's Jose Diaz to refine the menu and align it with 49th State's style of food. Complete renovations could take up to three years.
"It's not happening overnight," McCarthy said.
All three declined to say how much the business sold for, only that it was in the "multimillion-dollar range." Anchorage property records show the Snow Goose building and lot assessed at $2.4 million in 2014.
Snow Goose Restaurant opened in 1996 along with a couple other brewpubs in downtown and Ship Creek, including the still-in-operation Glacier Brewhouse. The Snow Goose building, which formerly housed the Elks Club, was built in 1918. Klopfer and his wife, Jane, have made extensive renovations over the last two decades, including the addition of a popular deck with views overlooking Knik Arm and Mount Susitna.
Klopfer said he still has a small ownership stake in the new operation. In an interview Monday, he said the sale to 49th State was bittersweet, but Klopfer has faith in the new ownership.
"We think they'll make it even better and successful and move into avenues that I knew were available, but never got in to," Klopfer said Monday. "I think they'll do a great job."
Klopfer said he's considered selling for several years. He has one daughter who he'd hoped might take over, but she works in publishing in New York City and isn't interested in running the business.
McCarthy and Motyka said they spent the last two years looking for ways to expand 49th State Brewing to Anchorage. They were drawn to Snow Goose for its downtown location and impressive views of the Alaska Range.
The two own a number of Healy and Denali Park hospitality venues, including the Denali Park Salmon Bake, Prospectors Pizzeria and Alehouse, The Overlook at the Crows Nest and 49th State Brewing Company in Healy.
Those operations are seasonal and close each winter. They said the downtown Anchorage business will be open year-round.
McCarthy said part of the selling point of their beers in Healy is that patrons can drink beer while taking in the mountain views. He said the Anchorage restaurant -- with its own impressive scenery, including of Denali -- is in line with that.
"On a clear day you can see where the other brewery is at," McCarthy said.
Chris Anderson, operating partner of Brew Brothers, LLC, which operates both Glacier Brewhouse and Orso, said it was good news that another restaurant is coming to downtown Anchorage, though he was sorry to see the Snow Goose leave.
"Downtown welcomes them and the legacy of Snow Goose will continue to go forward with another brewery taking over," Anderson said. "And we're thankful for all the work Gary Klopfer did. He's a good man."
McCarthy and Motyka said tourism would be a major business focus, but they want to make the restaurant welcoming for locals as well. Motyka grew up in Anchorage and McCarthy moved to Alaska in 2006. He and his wife, Della, recently purchased a home in downtown Anchorage. They said they both plan to stay in Alaska long term.
While things are changing, Motyka said, they hope to retain some of the history of the Snow Goose. They'll continue to sell Sleeping Lady beer until it runs out. Even then, they're working with Sleeping Lady's head brewer to incorporate those beer styles into its tap lineup.
"There's a lot of history in this facility with Alaskan craft beer; we intend to make that a part of what we do," he said. "(Klopfer) is passing the baton. We're just going to take what he's done and with our brand make it something everyone in Alaska can be part of."