Half Lion Public House at the Riverbend Golf Complex in Kent. COURTESY PHOTO, Half Lion Public House

Half Lion Public House at the Riverbend Golf Complex in Kent. COURTESY PHOTO, Half Lion Public House

Half Lion Public House finds success at Riverbend in Kent

Three previous restaurants at city-owned golf complex went out of business

The Half Lion Public House has turned out to be another part of the newly found success of the Riverbend Golf Complex in Kent.

The golf complex made money in 2022 for the first time in many years and so did the Half Lion Public House. The city leases space to Half Lion, 2019 W. Meeker St., at Riverbend.

“We are finally in the black, and being in the black for a small business is the best thing in the world – it’s awesome,” Half Lion owner Jason Nelson said at a March 7 City Council workshop about the Riverbend Golf Complex.

Half Lion opened in 2019 and in just six months had to shut down due to the pandemic. In 2022, its first full year of operation, the restaurant/bar made a profit.

“We wouldn’t be in the black without your grace and support,” Nelson said to the council. “There’s money we still owe, we’re not in the black that much, but we’re close.”

City leaders made a deal with Half Lion in August 2021 to help keep the business going through the pandemic:

• Waived the monthly lease payment until two months after full restaurant restrictions were relaxed by the state, a $54,000 loss to Riverbend, according to city documents.

• Suspended Consumer Price Index inflation adjustment to the lease until June 2023.

• Utility payments were deferred and allowed to be paid back over five years with 8% interest.

The utility deferment was $36,013 and as of January 2023 Half Lion still owed $26,232. The payback schedule is for five years at a rate of $730 per month. Half Lion hasn’t missed a payment and has paid back 28% of the deferment.

“Giving us that time, the city and community and council showed they are looking for longterm success and partners,” Nelson said. “That’s what we are looking for and that’s what we found in Kent.”

The fact a restaurant is making its payments to the city marked the first time that’s happened after three consecutive businesses eventually failed at the location.

Fire Creek Grill lasted nine years before it went out of business in 2010. Mick Kelly’s Irish Pub closed in 2015 after a five-year run. Scotch and Vine closed in 2017 after less than a year in business. All three restaurants owed the city money after closing.

“The people of Kent deserve a good restaurant, we are thankful for you,” Councilmember Zandria Michaud said to Nelson at the workshop.

Nelson said the success of the upgraded and expanded Riverbend Driving Range has made a difference.

“The driving range is happening,” Nelson said. “It’s so cool to see a mini Topgolf in the city of Kent. We are figuring out staffing and food we can offer over there.”

Topgolf, a national chain with a location in Renton, features a driving range game with electronically tracked golf balls and automatically scored drives.

“It’s not just a revenue stream but a community thing,” Nelson said about the Riverbend Driving Range. “Topgolf is very expensive, who can go there very often? But you can come to the driving range in Kent and can get beverages and food and hang out with friends.”

Half Lion Public House is part of Sumner-based Half Lion Brewing Co. The company signed a 10-year lease with the city in 2019, plus three five-year options to renew, at a rent of $3,000 per month or $36,000 per year.

Half Lion Public House offers a full bar and restaurant serving crafted food that compliments its craft beer line up. It is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

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