Williwaw aims for a reboot by teaming up with Midnight Sun Brewing Co.

Williwaw, the downtown Anchorage venue and restaurant complex, is aiming to reboot its food offerings by teaming up with Midnight Sun Brewing Co.

The South Anchorage brewery and restaurant will open a second location inside the Williwaw complex's dining area, with a push for it to be up and running in early June in time for tourist season.

The new partnership is an effort to boost the food business at Williwaw, which hasn't fared as well as the entertainment or beverage sides of the business since the venue opened in 2015, said Dylan Buchholdt, a co-owner of the company that operates Williwaw.

He refers to what's coming next as "Williwaw 2.0."

"We didn't start with a very strong food program and we kind of chased it and chased it until we said, OK, let's put out some feelers to really bring on a food program that is, for lack of a better term, critically acclaimed in the Anchorage area," he said.

Williwaw is a venue for concerts, meetings and other events, and also hosts upscale speakeasy Blues Central upstairs, a SteamDot cafe location, Birch bar and loft, and a rooftop bar.

For Midnight Sun, the oldest brewery currently operating in Anchorage, the new spot — which will be branded with its name — means more visibility. Right now, its brewery operations and restaurant are located in an industrial pocket farther south in town.


"Humpy's across the street has kind of been a draw for craft beer people for a long time," said Gary Busse, general manager for Midnight Sun, referring to the neighborhood where Williwaw is, at Sixth Avenue and F Street. "People know that part of town that are into beer, so we will finally be able to plant a flag downtown. Otherwise we're kind of hidden down here."

Midnight Sun won't have brewing operations at Williwaw, Busse said, but they will install a setup for about 16 beer taps. Midnight Sun will run the food in the dining area inside as well as on the rooftop.

The restaurant inside Williwaw will also be able to serve its beers later than Midnight Sun's other location, which, as a brewery, can only offer beer until 8 p.m.

Williwaw hasn't served lunch for about eight months, Buchholdt said, because it wasn't doing well. The plan is for Midnight Sun to bring that back and also look at whether to add brunch on the weekends.

['Financial strain' of Williwaw a factor in bankruptcy case involving company that owns Anchorage bars]

Fish or Cut Bait LLC is the company that operates Williwaw. The same people who own that company also own Hook Link and Sinker Inc., which owns Humpy's Great Alaskan Alehouse, Flattop Pizza and Pool, and Bootleggers 8 Star Saloon — bars just across F Street from Williwaw.

In February, Hook Line and Sinker filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after creditors said they were owed millions of dollars. A document filed in federal bankruptcy court cited the "financial strain imposed by Williwaw start up and mobilization costs" as one factor.

The goal of the bankruptcy is to reorganize the company, Buchholdt said, adding that what's good for Williwaw is good for the other bars.

"If we're operating reasonably and profitably (at Williwaw), then a lot of the issues that are out there that sort of straddle both sides of the street would start to go away," he said.

Midnight Sun, Williwaw and SteamDot will work together to roll out menus, coordinating hours and service for each of the bars and halls at the venue.

"The downtown economy almost dictates this sort of alliance now because of the way it's changing down there," said Jonathan White, owner of SteamDot. "Tourism is great for everybody, but you've got to make hay the other nine months of the year. … It's a pretty powerful combination now."

Annie Zak

Annie Zak was a business reporter for the ADN between 2015 and 2019.