Half Lion Public House at the Riverbend Golf Complex will get a 17-month rent waiver from the city of Kent to help keep the restaurant going through the impact of COVID-19 on business.
The Kent City Council approved the rent break of $3,000 per month (a total of $51,000) from March 2020 through August 2021 at its Sept. 7 meeting. Owners of the restaurant/bar must start paying rent again this month.
”I think COVID impacted a lot of us,” Councilmember Bill Boyce said. “We’ve been through several restaurants there, many walked away still owing the city. I don’t want to go there again. Half Lion was doing well prior to COVID.
“If we get them through COVID and get them sustained, it’ll be good in the long run for the city and for Half Lion, so I strongly support this.”
Sumner-based Half Lion opened in June 2019 at the city-owned Riverbend Golf Complex, 2019 W. Meeker St. The company agreed to a 10-year lease. But less than a year after opening, the pandemic struck.
City Parks director Julie Parascondola told the council that state restrictions meant Half Lion for six months could have no customers inside, seven months at just 25% capacity and three months at 50%.
“It was not just about the capacity, they also had limited hours,” she said.
City leaders also approved no monthly lease increases for Half Lion until 2023, so the monthly rate will remain at $3,000 until going to $3,090 in year five of the lease.
Half Lion also received a delay in paying utilities, although it will have to pay back the utilities owed over a five-year period with 8% interest.
“Half Lion is a new restaurant and still building their brand,” Parascondola said. “They were there 10 months (before restrictions) and just rebuilt the whole interior and used their reserves for that.”
Parascondola said without the financial breaks Half Lion would close and the city would be left looking for a new tenant to run a restaurant.
“There is no market for restaurants, especially during COVID,” she said.
It also helps the city-owned golf course attract business if golfers have a restaurant/bar to go to after playing, Parascondola said. She added the city staff waited to make recommendations about the lease agreement due to the uncertainty of how long the pandemic would last.
“We made a false assumption that it would not last too long,” said Parascondola who added staff didn’t want to keep coming back to the council with adjustments to the contract.
Councilmember Marli Larimer said it makes sense for the city to help out a tenant because city leaders have been asking other landlords to help out tenants during the pandemic.
“For many years we did not have a restaurant there, so it’s vital for the community to do this,” Larimer said.
City staff changed up the initial lease agreement with Half Lion two years ago to paying a straight monthly rate after more complicated leases with previous restaurants at the site backfired. The city took a cut of gross revenue in previous agreements.
Scotch and Vine closed in April 2017 after less than a year in business, Mick Kelly’s Irish Pub closed in June 2015 after a five-year run and the Fire Creek Grill closed in 2010 after nine years. The city wrote off about $175,000 owed by those three restaurants.
“This is the right thing to do,” Council President Toni Troutner said. “Half Lion came into Kent for this partnership, providing space to service clubs. …we will come out on the other side and the partnership will continue. I am a frequent visitor and Councilmember (Brenda) Fincher is.”
City staff also approved space near the driving range where Half Lion can serve drinks and light food and will let the restaurant install dedicated parking spots near its entry doors.
Half Lion opened in Sumner in February 2016 and its beer is on tap at locations from Seattle to Olympia. The name comes not from a lion, but a Great Dane.