By Naomi Klouda
When the lights went out in the famed Alice’s Champagne Palace last winter, a key community ingredient went missing from the mix of what makes Homer tick.
That’s how Matt North, a financial adviser with Edward Jones, and Todd Boling, a local medical doctor, appraised the situation as the distinctive red building sat idle in Homer since its owners closed the doors.
“It’s a sad spot to drive by and look at. We saw something is missing in town and it makes it sad,” North said. “Alice’s served a purpose that no other place was able to provide that makes Homer what it is. We need to restore it to what it was for the community, the valuable role it served. Forums need to be held there again.”
Boling and North had driven past Alice’s many times noticing its bleak closure. One day they rode past on their way to have coffee. “We were sitting there, drinking coffee at K Bay when we started to really talk seriously about making plans,” he said.
North teamed up with Boling to approach Alice’s owner, the English Bay Corp., which also owns the nearby Heritage Hotel. North and Boling are now in the process of purchasing the business, the building, land and liquor license.
“English Bay has been great to work with. It’s a dream they want to make happen, to bring Alice’s back to what it was: A community place. A place you can stop and have a burger and brew after work or catch the World Series,” North said.
Acquiring the property was initiated by local Realtor Angie Newby, who contacted the English Bay Corp., Boling said. “Angie really made it happen by making the call and putting the deal with the Native corporation in a way that went really well.”
The two Homer businessmen aren’t setting an opening date just yet. They are now in the due diligence stage, inspecting the building and drafting documents. They are looking at an October opening date, since it takes 90-120 days for liquor license transfers, Boling said.
Plans for Alice’s follows the formula set by previous manager Cynthia Burns, who brought in friendly staff, good music and forged a community gathering place that didn’t always feel like a bar.
Superbowl Sunday Feb. 2 marked the last day Homer’s bright red landmark remained open for patrons.
Alice’s, owned by the English Bay Corporation since 2005, has undergone a number of transitions during its long Homer history. The popular landmark hasn’t shirked controversy. One incident was taken up in Joe McGinniss’ book, “Going to Extremes.” The author recounted how a mural of a naked lady that once adorned the walls in the 1970s caused a major rift brought by a local minister who considered it indecent for a public establishment. Eventually the mural or sign, painted by local artist Brad Hughes, was taken down.
“I don’t know how many stories I’ve heard about the building,” North said. “People who had their first date there, people who were married. There are so many stories and memories of experiences people had there.”
Story has it, the building was shipped up from a mid-western American turkey farm and rebuilt on the spot. Others say it actually came from a pig farm, and that some of the corrugated metal came from local canneries when they were dismantled. The solid wood planks on the floor look suspiciously ancient, though several had needed replacing after being worn down by dancers through the decades.
A number of famous musicians from around the world have played at Alice’s since it was first founded in the 1970s. It was named for owner Alice Cochrane.
Over the years, a combined bar-restaurant has served as a music and performance venue, attracting artists from around the Kenai Peninsula, the country and the world. It served nonprofits who performed live theatre. It served as headquarters where political conventions could be watched on the big screen, such as when Gov. Sarah Palin ran with Presidential Candidate John McCann as his vice presidential running mate. Many of its events were open to the whole family.
English Bay Corporation President Donald Emmal said closing down Alice’s last winter was purely a business decision.
“It just has to do with income and cash flow and things financial,” Emmal said at the time.
When the English Bay Corp. bought the bar nine 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.
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