A new attraction on Alaska's Kodiak Island features exotic dancers who entertain fishermen on a converted Bering Sea crabbing boat dubbed the "Wild Alaskan" — and it's already encountered choppy regulatory seas.
Barely open for business, the floating bar and grill was briefly shut down by the Coast Guard after someone reported that a water taxi was overloaded as it transported patrons to the 120-foot vessel.
Wild Alaskan owner Darren Byler said he is "100 percent sure" that whoever notified authorities doesn't like that he has stripping dancers aboard. He said he apologizes in advance to anyone in the public who doesn't approve of that line of work.
"But let's face it, this is business. It's nothing personal," he said. "And by the way, this business has been around for a while. I didn't invent it."
The water taxi is legally allowed to carry six passengers, Byler said, adding that four others aboard were crew members, so there were no violations.
Wild Alaskan opened for business June 25. After the water taxi call, it was shut down early Saturday morning on unrelated safety gear violations after Byler was ordered to bring the vessel to dock. That's when he explained the water-taxi numbers to the Coast Guard. The business reopened Tuesday.
The shutdown was first reported by Kodiak radio station KMXT.
Before the call about the water taxi, the Coast Guard last week found the boat had an expired personal location beacon, expired inflatable devices on two life rafts and inoperable navigation sidelights, Petty Officer Diana Honings said.
Byler said he was allowed to continue operating after the inspection because he was using rented equipment. The shutdown occurred after the water-taxi incident. He believes he's been treated unfairly in what he calls an excessive show of force.
"It really damaged our reputation," he said.
Honings said the order was lifted after the problems were fixed. She said the entire incident is under investigation and she cannot release more information.
The grill part of the business will be up and running in about two weeks, Byler said, adding that the vessel represents more than nighttime adult entertainment — it is also a charter boat for tours.
In the three days that it was open for exotic dancing, a steady stream of happy patrons got aboard the vessel, which can carry 12 passengers and 12 crew members at a time, he said.
Longtime Kodiak resident Rob Dierich, a commercial fisherman, is among those who checked out the new attraction. He said it's been years since the city of Kodiak has had anything similar to offer, when a couple of local bars once employed exotic dancers.
He said this kind of business would attract opponents in any community. In this case, the establishment can easily be avoided because it's not somewhere people can stumble into, he said.
"I think it's nice," he said of Wild Alaskan. "They did a really nice job setting that place up. It's nice and clean. Good environment."