Half Lion Brewing to open restaurant at Kent’s Riverbend Golf Complex

City staff makes lease deal to try to snap streak of failed eateries

Courtesy Photo, Half Lion Brewing

Courtesy Photo, Half Lion Brewing

After three consecutive restaurant failures at the city-owned Riverbend Golf Complex, Kent officials have cut a deal with Sumner-based Half Lion Brewing Co., to try to make the new tenant successful.

The Half Lion Public House is scheduled for a soft opening in May and a grand opening in June at 2019 W. Meeker St. The restaurant will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, serve traditional American pub food and feature a full bar.

“Much like the Half Lion Brewing Co., Taproom in Sumner, the Half Lion Public House will be offering a rustic and comfortable space that will be another great place for family and friends to gather and have fun,” according to a statement on Half Lion’s Facebook page.

The company opened in Sumner in February 2016. Half Lion beer is on tap at more than 200 locations from Tukwila to Olympia. The Sumner location hosts weekly trivia, live music and private events. And the name comes not from a lion, but a Great Dane, which owners Jason Nelson, David Westby and Adam Shay explain on the company’s website at halflion.com.

The City Council unanimously approved a lease agreement on Jan. 15 with Half Lion. It’s a 10-year lease with three, five-year options. The lease requires Half Lion to pay $3,000 per month, a big change from previous restaurant agreements.

City Parks Director Julie Parascondola told the council prior to its vote that changes needed to be done to try overcome the failures of Scotch and Vine, which closed in April 2017 after less than a year in business; Mick Kelly’s Irish Pub, which closed in June 2015 after a five-year run; and the Fire Creek Grill, which closed in 2010 after nine years.

“One of the challenges is whether it’s the term or the option, every restaurant has ended up defaulting and owing the city revenue,” Parascondola said.

The three restaurants still owe the city a total of about $175,000, Parascondola said. The city has written off those losses.

Parascondola said city staff looked at ways to consider the new tenant a partner and how to help the restaurant survive. So instead of the city taking a percentage of the gross revenue, the new contract includes a flat monthly fee.

Scotch and Vine had a lease to pay 8 percent of gross monthly revenues to the city, with a minimum of $5,000 per month and a maximum of $12,000 per month.

“There is a very small net profit margin (for restaurants),” Parascondola said. “When Kent was taking a percent of gross profits, it was proving to be too much for the restaurants to handle. This is a tenant/landlord agreement, but we are also a partner. We need to see them as that.”

Half Lion also will pay 45 percent of the utilities. Mick Kelly, who ran the Irish pub, complained to the city about how he had to pay for all utilities even though the facility had no separate meters for the restaurant and 18-hole clubhouse next door.

Councilman Dennis Higgins said prior to the vote he liked the new lease agreement negotiated by Mayor Dana Ralph and Parascondola.

“After Scotch and Vine left, I made the remark we had three different restaurants fail in that space so we must be doing something wrong,” Higgins said. “I want to thank you mayor and Julie for re-thinking how you are going to run that lease.”

Higgins also welcomed the new owners to the golf complex

“I’ve been to your brewery and I’m excited to have you there,” Higgins said.

In addition to serving golfers at the 18-hole course, Parascondola expects Half Lion to be a good fit for the new Marquee on Meeker Apartments under construction across the street from Riverbend.

The council sold that land, the former par 3 course, for $10.5 million to a mixed-use developer to eliminate the Riverbend Golf Complex fund’s debt of about $4 million and to spend about $6 million to improve the 18-hole course. Parascondola will update the council in February about changes at the course and driving range under the city’s new business plan to help Riverbend break even rather than losing money every year.

Marquee on Meeker eventually will have about 500 upscale apartments targeted for millennials (born 1981-1996).

“We had to think different because we have the golf customers but we also have the Meeker corridor,” she said. “It’s a going to be a lot different corridor bringing in the millennials.”

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