New company takes over hospitality services at Fort Worden

Today is launch of the change

PORT TOWNSEND — Fort Worden Hospitality assumes management today of the accommodations, restaurants, catering and venues at Fort Worden State Park.

The nonprofit company is taking over hospitality services management under a concession contract with the Fort Worden Public Development Authority (PDA).

Outward signs of the change will be minor, according to Natalie Maitland, managing director of operations for Fort Worden Hospitality.

The most visible change is a new logo on the buildings the business operates.

Also today, the cancellation policy for new reservations is simplified to allow all guests 45 days to cancel. Earlier arrangements will be honored under the terms in which they were made.

The company employs 40 people full time, part time and on-call, Maitland said Saturday, and it plans to hire 30 more by summer’s peak season.

Jobs in food and beverage services, sales, housekeeping and maintenance are expected to be posted over the next six weeks.

The Reveille Café in the Commons will continue operating. The Cablehouse Beach Canteen will be open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Taps at the Guardhouse is expected to reopen in May if hiring goes as planned.

Other plans include improving the amenities in buildings the business operates, updating restaurant offerings and redefining services, Maitland said.

The business is managing 41 vacation rental houses, nine indoor venues, five outdoor venues and three onsite eateries as well as a catering commercial kitchen within the 90-acre area that is contained within the PDA’s master lease with Washington State Parks.

Maitland and Aislinn Diamanti, managing director of administration, aim to offer locally influenced and sourced food, comfortable accommodations, “and a variety of activities available to visitors, guests and residents of Port Townsend to foster a summer-camp like experience year-round,” according to a press release.

“This is a positive time of change,” Maitland said in the release. “Fort Worden is such a special and unique place that having a local company in charge of hospitality operations makes sense on many levels, most importantly the economic impact to our area.”

The change is part of a massive restructuring of the PDA, which followed financial issues brought to light in February 2020 before the COVID-19 shutdowns began.

The state auditor’s office released a report saying that the PDA had finance-management issues to correct based on reviews in 2016 and 2017.

Issues included late submissions of the annual financial reports, failure to disclose debt and that staff members tasked with preparing the financial statements lacked the technical experience needed to perform their duties.

While the PDA began to address the internal financial issues, the pandemic hit, and Fort Worden was forced to close due to the subsequent shutdown. The agency received no funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, it was reported.

The PDA lost what it computed to be millions in potential revenue. Restructuring separated the hospitality sector from maintenance and other programs within the Life Long Learning Center.

“I am incredibly thankful to the staff who are transitioning from the PDA to our new Hospitality Group,” said Board President Matt Gurney, in the release.

“Fort Worden Hospitality will be spending this coming year stabilizing as a new entity and learning from our Fort Partners, visitors and Port Townsend residents how we can facilitate activities and services that will help make the Fort PT’s backyard.”

In addition to Gurney, the board consists of Treasurer Wendy Davis, Secretary Stephanie Svornich, and members Jeff Jackson, Cindy Finnie, Terry Umbriet, Laura Figueroa Ware and Quentin Incao.

“Part of serving our community is creating good jobs for people who live here,” Diamanti said.

“Part of running a good business is ensuring our company culture and values are intertwined and employee-led. This is built into our framework and will be expanded on as we add more team members over the next few months. It’s an exciting time to work at Fort Worden, and a remarkable opportunity to be on the ground floor of something special.”

When it is safe to do so, Fort Worden Hospitality will announce a community open house, according to the release.

For more information, see www.fortworden.org or follow Fort Worden Hospitality on social media @fortworden.

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Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at lleach@peninsuladailynews.com.

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