Vacant Sitka Hotel gets new owner, remodel

Texas-based businessman Robert Petrie bought the Sitka Hotel about a month ago. He has big plans for the historic hotel like remodeling all the hotel rooms, adding apartments and putting in a completely new bar and restaurant. (Brielle Schaeffer/KCAW photo)
Texas-based businessman Robert Petrie bought the Sitka Hotel about a month ago. He has big plans for the historic hotel like remodeling all the hotel rooms, adding apartments and putting in a completely new bar and restaurant. (Brielle Schaeffer/KCAW photo)

You’ve probably noticed the construction happening downtown on Lincoln Street. The Sitka Hotel has a new owner with big plans for the iconic building.

After two years of vacancy, The Sitka Hotel needs a lot of work.

Just ask James Dunnavant.

“As you walk into the old part you can just smell it, and everything, like the carpet has got to come out it’s just really old …  and nasty, everybody smoking in their rooms for so many years,” Dunnavant said.

Dunnavant is the foreman for Shaffer Construction. His company is working for new owner Robert Petrie, a Texas-based businessman who sees a lot of potential in the building. Petrie bought the historic hotel about a month ago and started renovations the same day.

“It just has a lot of history to it and I hated to see it become dilapidated and unused,” Petrie said.

The Sitka Hotel is best known for its saloon-style eatery Victoria’s Restaurant and its bar, the Pourhouse. The Lincoln Street hotel was built in 1939. Petrie says he’s going to maintain the historic feel of the structure during the remodel. He’s updating the restaurant and bar to have what he calls a “rustic but elegant feel.” Plans also call for some of the 43 rooms to turn into one- and two-bedroom apartments.

“Housing’s at a premium, apartments, anything,” Petrie said. “It’s hard to find anything in Sitka right now.”

Construction workers have already gutted the restaurant, bar and kitchen. Again, foreman Dunnavant.

“The tentative plan is to remove some of these walls to give it more of an open floor space I don’t know if you remember how this bar was real narrow and everybody sort of funneled in,” Dunnavant said. “We want to open it up a little bit more and make it feel a little bit more comfortable.”

(Brielle Schaeffer/KCAW photo)
(Brielle Schaeffer/KCAW photo)

The back addition of the building used to be apartments. That part was destroyed by a fire in 2006 and more recently rebuilt. The new area is staying the same. But the upstairs of the main hotel is getting a complete makeover.

“It’s going to be a totally different facility – much more upscale,” Petrie said.

Petrie says the new restaurant will seat some 100 patrons and serve upscale Alaskan fare such as king crab and caribou. He’s hoping to have the restaurant and bar open early next year, in time for the Super Bowl. But the hotel needs more work than he originally thought.

“We’re running into a lot of issues with this building,” Petrie said. “We’re putting a new roof on it. We’re redoing the electric. We’re redoing the plumbing. We’re redoing the sprinkler system for the fire safety system. There are a lot of old things in here that we have to make new again.”

In the meantime, workers are focused on adding cedar siding and a copper awning to the front of the building. Petrie wouldn’t reveal how much he paid for the hotel. But, he says, he’s investing more than $1 million in its remodel.

Petrie owns an auto dealership and other businesses in Texas. This is his first hotel. He says he’s committed to the community, having bought a house here about a year ago.

Former owners of the hotel owed the city more than $100,000 in unpaid sales and bed taxes. Sitka Municipal Administrator Mark Gorman says the city recouped all monies due when the sale went through.