Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | November 7, 2008

Salty Dawg Saloon To Stay Open

The Salty Dawg Saloon on the Spit in Homer, Alaska is one of my favorite bars in the world. It’s a dive, about as deep as dives go, but also one of the most interesting bars I’ve ever been to. It’s something of a mix between Homer halibut fishermen, locals, and tourists. Unlike most renowned bars in places that get tourist traffic, the Salty Dawg is still a great time.

Homer is the halibut capital of the world and most of the economy there is built around fishing. That said, the town motto is “Homer: A Small Drinking Village with a Fishing Problem.” Because so much of the economy is based around summer halibut fishing, the Salty Dawg usually closes down in the early fall and stays closed for the winter. Homer has a year-round population of around 4,000, so it’s hard to keep the business going out of season. But the Homer Tribune reports that this year they’re giving it a shot.

The world-famous Salty Dawg Saloon on the Homer Spit plans to keep its doors open this winter after a 25-year tradition of closing on Oct. 31.

Boarding windows usually follows the big Halloween sendoff, like all the other Spit businesses, to protect from inhospitable winter winds. Then it reopens before everyone else on March 1. …

“People have great stories. It’s a chance to tell sea stories and there are so many great ones about the Dawg,” Smith said. “Usually we wait until spring, but I think it would be great to hear them in the winter.”

The cabin, known as the oldest structure from the original Homer Spit settlement, was built in 1898, with the adjoining structure circa 1909. In various carnations, the buildings have served as a post office, grocery store and schoolhouse. One man who still visits the Dawg installed the original bar in 1966-67. He recalls it was hewn of a giant spruce tree from Afognak that was sliced in half.

“It used to be flat on top. It dried out after it was cut, and then it bowed,“ Harold Billups recalls. No one bothered with this bumpy flaw, except that hundreds of signers overlaid it with their autographs through the years. Billups did electrical work and repairs on the buildings in the ensuing years.

Don Ronda formerly gave the historic walking tours on the Spit during the summer. He told an infamous tale about the Salty Dawg involving a time before indoor plumbing, when an outhouse was used. Apparently in cleaning it, twice as much dynamite than was advisable was used. The story is recorded on an oral history compact disc entitled “Alaskan Voices,” called “The Homer Crap Shooter.”

I’m really excited about this — I’d thought about staying in Alaska and moving to Homer earlier this year, but the thought of having the Salty Dawg closed all winter was discouraging. Who knows – maybe if they keep staying open, a move to Homer might be in order for me at some point down the line.

If you’re ever in Alaska, I highly recommend making the trip down to Homer, which is at the end of the road on the Kenai Peninsula. Homer might be the most beautiful place I’ve ever been in the world and the Salty Dawg is a great bar, worthy of your patronage. Check it out if you can.


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