PORT HADLOCK — While local restaurant Ajax Cafe is closed indefinitely due to ongoing issues with its septic system, its owner is hoping to reopen eventually with a new septic system and a new business model.
Current owner Kristan McCary said she’s been working to install a new septic system — even purchasing an adjacent property to allow for enough space and working with an engineer to lay out the final design.
However, the restaurant closed unexpectedly Oct. 8 on orders from the county.
“The county felt the project wasn’t happening fast enough,” said McCary. “They gave us three days’ notice, and then we had to shut down.”
The cafe has been serving visitors and residents in Port Hadlock since 1977 and has had ongoing issues with its out-of-date septic system for roughly two years. According to Jefferson County Public Health Officer Tom Locke, with wet winter weather on its way, the current septic system was no longer an option.
“This has nothing to do with their quality as a restaurant,” said Locke. “With the coming of the rainy season, it’s just not safe to use a failed septic system. With a failed system, you’re dumping waste water into the ground water, which — with them so close to the shoreline — makes its way into marine water and shellfish beds.”
According to Locke, the restaurant could pay to have its system pumped; however, that is an expensive and short-term solution.
Instead, Ajax Cafe employees have created a GoFundMe account in order to raise money to implement a long-term solution for the septic system.
They have quite the incentive because McCary said the plan is to transfer the restaurant to an employee-owned model, where a handful of employees will manage and own shares of the restaurant.
The GoFundMe money will go toward making that transition as well.
“I think they’re going to keep much of it the same,” said McCary, “but they’ll improve what needs to be improved.”
The restaurant has raised $2,270 from 21 donors in the two days since the GoFundMe was launched. That’s barely a dent in its $221,000 goal; however, community support has helped local restaurants before.
This time last year, Sweet Laurette Cafe in Port Townsend raised $8,570 through Indiegogo to fund restaurant remodels.
Ajax Cafe will remain closed until the septic system is fixed and, according to McCary, there’s no set timeline for the completion of the project yet.
“We just have to wait until the engineer has all the information gathered and a plan,” said McCary.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at email@example.com.