Betsy Davis, executive director of the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding, stands next to the Ajax Cafe, which it is hoped will reopen this spring after a community effort raised funds that allowed the school to purchase the property. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Betsy Davis, executive director of the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding, stands next to the Ajax Cafe, which it is hoped will reopen this spring after a community effort raised funds that allowed the school to purchase the property. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Ajax Cafe expected to reopen in Hadlock; boatbuilding school new owner of building

PORT HADLOCK — The Ajax Cafe is expected to reopen in Port Hadlock now that the community has raised funds needed for the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding to purchase the building.

The community donated all the funding needed for the boat school to purchase the property, and an agreement was signed between the boat school and the Ajax Cafe

“There have been a lot of bumps in the road, but all-in-all, this has really been a faith-restoring process,” said co-owner Bill Bonyun, who is also a boat school graduate.

“It’s great that so many people out there love the place enough to … make it happen.”

The restaurant — which is housed in an historic building constructed in the 1880s at 21 N. Water St., Port Hadlock — closed unexpectedly Oct. 8, 2016, on orders from Jefferson County because of problems with the property’s septic system.

County officials said it wasn’t safe for the restaurant to use the failed septic system, especially during heavy rains.

Then the owners of the restaurant partnered with the boat school to raise funds to allow the school to purchase the property and fix the septic system.

Betsy Davis, executive director of the boat school, said that the project is not yet done. County approval of the septic design still is needed.

Davis said that more than 250 people donated a combined $375,000 that allowed the school to purchase the property in November.

Anonymous donors agreed in September to match all funds — up to $100,000 — made to the boat school in an effort to speed up the process.

As the new property owner, the boat school is now in the final stages of getting approval on the new septic design, and the Ajax Cafe is expected to be open for regular business in the spring.

Davis said she was excited to be a part of the project and she is happy to see the restaurant reopen and be a part of the school’s campus.

“I am so inspired by this community that so many people got behind the project,” she said. “It’s remarkable to see the level of enthusiasm in the community for the restaurant.”

Davis hopes that the septic system process will be finished early enough that the restaurant could reopen by spring, but there is no firm date for re-opening.

The purchase fits in with the school’s long-term goals of connecting its upper and lower campuses and will allow the school to expand, Davis said.

In response to input from the school’s Program Advisory Committee, made up of people from maritime industry, the school is extending its curriculum to include Marine Systems, such as marine electrical, hydraulics, engines and plumbing.

“We are starved for space,” Davis said. “Owning this property gives us additional office and shop space, and lets us create safer connections between our upper and lower classrooms.”

Now that the property is purchased, Davis said the boat school still needs to pay upward of $150,000 to fund the replacement of the septic system.

The school is prepared to pay for it in whole, but she said that with the generosity she has already seen, donations are more than welcome.

“The boat school will carry the financing if we need to, but given the level of enthusiasm we have seen for the project we believe there is an opportunity for more gifts,” she said. “[Donations] could make a big difference.”

Donations for septic system are being accepted at www.nwswb.edu/savetheajax. All donations are tax deductible.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

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