At Arctic Bar – like most dive bars – the atmosphere is jovial and a bit gritty, reflecting the city’s previous renown as Alaska’s Wickedest City.
The mascot that awaits outside the door is the front half of two bears “frolicking” with the back half on the inside of the bar. Their logo is of two happy bears and so the bar is known as “Home of the Happy Bears.” Two bears copulating are found throughout the bar in sculptures, ceramics, barware, and more.
Originally opened in 1937, Arctic Bar is the oldest bar in Ketchikan. Its original location was located on Creek Street, known for the brothels the loggers and fishermen would frequent. There was even a secret trail, now clearly marked as Married Man’s Trail, to allow the men to access the brothels without detection.
In addition to the happy bears, newspaper clippings about the bar’s history are laminated into the bar-top, as well as framed on the walls. One story is about a 1956 flood that swept the bar and one of its tenants, in bed at the time, in its entirety into the water. The tall tales enhance the actual event with stories of men learning to dive so they could fish cases of beer from the bottom of the waters. A 6,200-pound safe containing jewelry and important papers was recovered from the water as well. The papers were wet but legible.
The personality of the bar is abundant, including that of co-owner Paula Weisel, and is a great place to meet locals — lumberjacks, pilots, and fishermen – plus tourists from the cruise ships stop by with its convenient dock-side location. Order a draw beer or a stiff drink, but be sure not to ring the ship’s bell that hangs above the bar or you’ll be buying the whole bar a round of drinks.