Restaurant, art gallery open at Old Alcohol Plant

Allison Arthur, aarthur@ptleader.com
Posted 3/28/17

After sitting idle since 2011, a restaurant in the Old Alcohol Plant in Port Hadlock has been revived to serve two purposes.

The restaurant, which opened on St. Patrick’s Day, provides food …

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Restaurant, art gallery open at Old Alcohol Plant

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After sitting idle since 2011, a restaurant in the Old Alcohol Plant in Port Hadlock has been revived to serve two purposes.

The restaurant, which opened on St. Patrick’s Day, provides food service to the Old Alcohol Plant, a for-profit hotel venture that opened a year ago. That business, in turn, is supporting Bayside Housing Services, a nonprofit housing venture aimed at helping people move from homelessness into affordable housing.

“I think it’s a unique approach to have a profit and nonprofit working together,” said owner Gary Keister. “And I think if we can prove the model out, it can be something that other people can use as a way of moving forward in assisting in this homelessness issue. It’s an area that needs to be addressed.”

The west side of the building houses a market-rate inn with 14 rooms, restaurant and bar, and banquet room as well as an art gallery. The gallery also reopened March 17.

The eastside tower property, which has 33 rooms, has been leased to Bayside for transitional housing, and since opening a year ago has moved more than a dozen people from homelessness to permanent housing, Keister said.

“We have moved quite a few people out into permanent housing. The two criteria for being at Bayside is for people to be physically able to be employed and pursue permanent housing. We work with them in those objectives,” he said.

Bayside works with social service organizations, including Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP), to connect with those in need. Bayside has two employees: managing director Aislinn Palmer and a counselor.

RESTAURANT OPENING

Although both the inn and Bayside have been open for about a year, it was the loss of the restaurant back in 2011 that people mourned. Keister said it took more time than he had anticipated to upgrade the restaurant to reopen it.

“We had to completely renovate it. It’s a totally new kitchen. It was certainly a challenge to do it, but Olympic Restaurant and Supply was really helpful,” Keister said.

Keister hired chef Albert Chitwood of Sonoma, California, who also has worked in Wisconsin and Hawaii, to create the menu. Chitwood has trained as a traditional Italian chef as well as classical French chef.

“It’s a startup, and it’s going to take time for customers to realize we’re open and [to] start building the clientele back of both the food service and lounge side. But we’re really pleased with where we are,” Keister said.

The profit side of the business currently employs 27, although not all of them are full-time.

The restaurant served 125 on its opening night. Keister said it was challenging because there were a number of walk-ins as well as reservations.

“We have a good team of people who really put their shoulder to the plough to get things up and running in a timely fashion,” Keister said. “All of the people we’ve hired have bought into the purpose and mission, especially our general manager, Jaimie Hayaski, and Sandra Gil, our marketing events coordinator.”

THE NAME

Keister said he kept the name Old Alcohol Plant because it is memorable, a name that can used in marketing.

He’s aware that some have criticized the name because there could be people on the Bayside property who have fallen into difficulties because of alcohol.

The Old Alcohol Plant name is actually a historical reference.

In 1910, ethyl alcohol was manufactured on the site at the head of Port Townsend Bay. The facility was vacant from 1913 until the 1980s, when it was remodeled into a resort and inn. Parts of the alcohol plant remain under an area of the building’s east side.

It served as an inn until it was abruptly shut in June 2011 and went into foreclosure. Keister and investors bought it in December 2014 for $852,000.

It took until 2016 to get the property back into shape to serve as an inn as well as to host weddings and other events.

ART, WORKSHOPS

An art gallery on the second floor of the Old Alcohol Plant, formerly known as Art Mine, also opened March 17 with the works of artists Stephen Yates and Gary Nisbet.

On hand for the grand re-opening, Yates noted that his work also graced the opening of Art Mine years ago.

“That’s bringing people casually in during the day,” Keister said of the gallery.

Sculptor Arliss Newcomb is planning a workshop in June with students staying at the inn and taking a workshop at the same time.

“That’s one of the markets we’re going after, too: art instructors who have students. We have event space now and meals,” said Keister.

Keister is most excited about hosting an event at the end of September with Michael Adams, the son of renowned photographer Ansel Adams. Michael Adams happened to be visiting the area and stopped by while the project was underway; he donated three large photographs by his father. Those photographs are on display in the main lobby of the hotel.

Michael Adams is to be a featured speaker at an event that is to showcase more of his father’s work.

“He came here with his dad as a kid. Ansel worked here [in Jefferson County] as a teenager for two summers,” Keister said.

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