AMHS To Close Ferry Bar Service This Winter

The Alaska Marine Highway System is closing bars on state ferries, a move that state Department of Transportation officials say will save about $750,000 a year.

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According to a DOT, the ferry bars lose money every year, and closing them will help limit other potential reductions in service. Spokesman Jeremy Woodrow said the biggest savings will be in salaries, but no current employees will lose their jobs.

The ferry Taku sails into the Wrangell Narrows on its way south in 2013. (Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska News)
The ferry Taku sails into the Wrangell Narrows on its way south in 2013. (Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska News)

“Crewmembers that work in the bars currently, they’ll be put in other positions. Then those positions wouldn’t be hired for the summer and then through the next winter,” he said.

Six state ferries have bar service: The Kennicott, the Matanuska, the Columbia, the Tustumena, the Malaspina and the Taku. The bar-closure dates will vary, depending on when they’re scheduled for their spring overhaul.

Woodrow said bar lounges will be offered as additional general lounge areas. The bars themselves will be closed off, but not removed, in case the state decides to offer that service again in the future.

Even though the bars will be closed, passengers 21 and older will be able to purchase beer and wine in the cafeteria areas during scheduled meal service times.

Woodrow said how that will work has not yet been determined.

“That’s something the department is going to be working on as these ships enter into their overhaul status, they’ll be working on the ship and finding a safe place, but also a convenient place to be able to store the beer and wine so that when passengers are purchasing their meal, they also can purchase a beer or wine to go along with their meal,” he said.

Woodrow said the first ship due for an overhaul is the Kennicott in March. The last one is the Taku, which is scheduled for June.