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Hard Rock Café coming to downtown Anchorage next year

Sean Doogan
The Bear Paw, former home of Rumrunner's Bar and Grill, is due to become the location of a new Hard Rock Cafe, opening next spring in downtown Anchorage. It would be the first Hard Rock in Alaska. Sean Doogan

At Tuesday night’s Anchorage Assembly meeting, members voted unanimously to approve a liquor license transfer that could pave the way for a major restaurant chain to come to Alaska’s largest city.

The Hard Rock Café website shows Anchorage as one of its new destinations – to be located at the former Rumrunner’s Old Towne Bar & Grill building on the corner of Fourth Avenue and E Street in downtown Anchorage. Already, Hard Rock has started advertising for kitchen staff.  

Rumrunner’s – a bar and restaurant -- was the subject of an effort to strip the establishment’s liquor license after years of problems including hundreds of police calls. Area merchants said the business was a source of late-night vandalism and damage caused by drunken patrons carousing in the downtown area after the bar closed for the night.

Some businesses near the proposed Hard Rock Café site say they believe the restaurant chain will help drive foot traffic throughout downtown Anchorage, and some believe Hard Rock will be a better neighbor than Rumrunner’s.

“I feel that the Hard Rock will bring a good amount of people, and a decent clientele; they will have a higher standard,” said Chris Robuk, manager of the Alaska Mint, which is across the street from the future Hard Rock site.

The Hard Rock Café was started in London, England in 1971. Thirty-six years later, it was sold to the Seminole Indian Tribe of Florida. Today, the restaurant, hotel, and casino chain has 175 locations in 53 countries, the closest of which is in Seattle. The Anchorage location would be the first in the 49th state. Construction is scheduled to begin within the next 30-60 days, and the new Hard Rock Anchorage should open next spring.

“I feel really good about it,” said Bob Neumann, owner of the nearby Anchorage Hotel.  “It’s going to be a real plus to the downtown area.”

The Hard Rock franchise is currently building up its chain of hotels and casinos. Its restaurants, like the one coming to Anchorage serve casual-dining fare and offer a wide variety of music and collectable memorabilia.

Contact Sean Doogan at sean@alaskadispatch.com