Sitka McDonald's will close this summer after 35 years

After more than 35 years as Sitka’s top spot for a fast-food fix, McDonald’s on Feb. 1 announced that its Sitka restaurant will close this summer.

An announcement posted on the bulletin board at the Sitka McDonald’s said the restaurant would “cease operations no later than 7/31/23.”

The announcement indicated the decision came from McDonald’s headquarters, and not from the franchise holders, Mike White and Bill Laliberte.

“As a franchisee of McDonald’s we understand the business decision but find it hard to leave a community that we have been involved with for so long,” said the statement above White’s and Laliberte’s names.

The closure will leave Juneau and Ketchikan as the only Southeast communities with a McDonald’s.

Customers at the bustling Sitka waterfront restaurant reacted to the news with disappointment.

Fran and Jim Hartman, both in their 70s, were at a table overlooking the harbor and enjoying a Happy Meal (hers) and a quarter-pounder with cheese (his).

“Big bummer, and very sad,” Fran said. “When we left Kodiak we talked about what city we wanted to go to. And one of the things on the list is they had to have a McDonald’s.”

They are oceangoing sailors and live aboard their boat in neighboring Thomsen Harbor. They’ve called Sitka home for the past 13 years, and said they eat more than once a week at McDonald’s.

They cited not just the food but the view as a selling point, a world-class view of Thomsen Harbor, the ocean, and Mt. Edgecumbe in the distance.

“The Kodiak McDonald’s has a view of the used tire shop,” Jim said.

Jim also mentioned the artwork on the walls of the Sitka McDonald’s featuring Alaska landscapes, images and wildlife.

“It’s really nice, somebody cared,” he said.

The couple even had a special celebration of Jim’s 70th birthday, and McDonald’s let them and their friends “make it fancy fancy,” with linen tablecloths and china.

Bruno said she used to enjoy walking down from the high school during lunch.

Chamber of Commerce executive director Rachel Roy said she has noticed helped-wanted signs in recent years, and the restaurant shortening its hours, citing a lack of staff.

She said she didn’t know why the restaurant is closing but it makes her think about the workforce challenges in Sitka.

 

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