The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

Editor, Valdez Star 

Totem Inn soldiers on in aftermath of roof fire last month

Hotel and bar remain open, restaurant and gift shop will be awhile longer


Valdez Star photo

The Totem Inn crew - with co-owners Connie Ballow and Mike Williams far right - are running the hotel office and other business from an office at the side of the main building after last month's devastating restaurant fire.

The Totem Inn restaurant and gift shop have no firm dates to reopen after last month's devastating roof fire.

While the hotel and separate bar, the Board Room, remain open for business, Mike Williams, who owns the business with his sister Connie Ballow, said Monday that he cannot confirm any dates for reopening the restaurant or gift shop.

"We know the damage to the roof is significant and we will be closed for an extended period of time," he said from the office at the left end of the main building where the hotel's front desk is temporarily housed. "The adjuster did tell me 'Don't expect to have Thanksgiving dinner here,' it's going to be a big project."

Williams said they are working with the insurance company's timeframe.

"We've had our contact with the insurance company," he said. "They have hooked us up with some fire mediation contractors from Anchorage. We are still waiting for the remediation contractors to come down. That's all I kind of know right now."

In the meantime, Williams says the company is keeping as many regular employees on staff as possible. He said that the fire, which was reported to the Valdez Fire Dept. just before midnight on Sept. 17, was at the end of the busy season and a number of employees were already slated for lay offs. Year-round employees are being cross-trained to work in other parts of the diversified business.

"We tried to keep as many of them working as we can," he said. "It was, fortunately, towards the end of the season."

While officials have ruled the fire an accident, the exact cause is still unknown.

"We're still looking to see exactly how the fire started," Williams said, and the company is working with the insurance company's investigator to try to determine what happened.

Photo courtesy City of Valdez

Firefighters at work putting out the roof fire at the Totem Inn's restaurant in mid-September.

"They haven't told me, officially, what they think started the fire," he said.

The restaurant is one of the oldest businesses operating in Valdez.

"My dad built it in `72," Williams said of the building. "It's been here a while."

Updates on the reopening of the restaurant and gift shop should be known before the end of this month according to Williams.

"I should have some updates in two weeks," he said. "We should have a little better idea of what's going on."


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