By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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Port commissioners unanimously approved a lease agreement this week that gives Russell Harding one year to present final plans for the site, which is located on port property at the corner of Water and Jackson streets.
No business has operated on the site that once housed a city landmark restaurant for five years.
The terms of the lease require a $500 nonrefundable deposit and a $500 monthly payment, with Harding paying the construction and permitting costs.
Harding told commissioners Wednesday he had no qualms about building a structure on leased land as long as the lease agreement extended for at least 15 years.
Both parties are looking to fast-track the project.
“Now the proposal has some teeth,” said Harding, who has owned and operated The Cup Restaurant at 600 W. Sims Way since March 2010.
“We need to develop a business plan from the pieces we have, but I don’t see any reason why we can’t get started quickly.”
Deputy Port Director Jim Pivarnik said he looks forward to working with Harding.
“There have been four or five different restaurants in The Cup’s location, and he’s the only one who’s been able to make it work,” he said.
However, “it’s not a slam dunk,” Pivarnik added.
“We need to get some permits.”
State shoreline development permits will be required, along with building permits from the city of Port Townsend, he said, adding that so much work has already been done on the 4,800-square-foot site that he expects no obstacles.
Utilities are already installed on the site, so that removes another stumbling block, Harding said.
Part of the former Landfall Restaurant building dated back to World War II. The octagonal area, where residents and visitors had eaten for more than two decades, was constructed and opened in 1980.
The building was vacated in October 2009 after Landfall owners went into default with the port on back rent and the state Department of Revenue placed a lien on the business.
The restaurant, which had an octagonal dining room, was demolished in 2010 when the building, which was constructed in the 1940s, was judged too dilapidated to repair.
Since the demolition, the site has remained empty, with proposals for a larger restaurant and a Mini Park Place Market considered but rejected.
Harding would like to restore the octagonal shape for historical and sentimental reasons and to maximize the view.
“You could put in windows on all sides,” he said. “It would be a shame to have this great view and then go inside a closet to eat.”
While nothing is certain, Harding would like to build a structure that seats about 50 people. He also wants to have a window to serve food to-go.
The proposed menu is loosely defined as “fish and chips.” It would be an outlet for the region’s high-quality fish, Harding said.
His tentative plan is to operate the restaurant from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for nine months a year, but that is also up in the air.
“You don’t know what people want until you do something and they come or don’t come,” he said.
“We need to open up and see what kind of feedback we get. If there is a demand for someone to be down there at 8 a.m. cooking something, we will fill that need.”
Harding is proposing the construction of a separate restroom facility that can be used by both restaurant patrons and the general public.
The cost for the new restrooms would be partially subsidized by the port, both parties say.
Harding has worked as a contractor and would provide construction services for both the restaurant and the restrooms, he told commissioners.
Harding’s son, Russell Harding Jr., is poised to take over management of The Cup once the new restaurant opens.
“I want to give my son the freedom to run The Cup as he sees fit,” Harding said.
“Part of my interest in doing this has to do with the changing of the guard in my own life.”
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.