Port Townsend brewpub to turn taps off, close doors Friday
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Water Street Brewing and Ale House employees Amy McKenzie, left, Megan Geraldi and Tim Nebel serve the Monday night crowd. The restaurant is due to shut its doors this Friday. -- Photo by Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT TOWNSEND -- The nightlife landscape is scheduled to lose one of its landmarks this week, as the operators of the Water Street Brewery and Ale House will shut its doors Friday.

The action is a result of what both sides call "a landlord-tenant dispute."

They also agree that after next week the restaurant that has occupied the 7,000-square-foot space at 639 Water St., downtown, will shutter.

The space once was the Town Tavern, noted for its barroom scene featuring Richard Gere and Debra Winger in the 1982 movie, "An Officer and a Gentleman."

The current dispute is between the owners of the building, known as the Water Street Corp., and the owners of the business, Triple Mash Corp.

The landlords, Chris and Dawn Sudlow, operated the restaurant as Maxwell's beginning in 1996 for eight years before selling the business in 2004 to Mark Burr and Nina Law for $175,000.

"We've had a landlord-tenant dispute with them for more than a year," he said. "They did not live up to their end of the bargain."

On the other hand, Burr said, "since December 2008, Water Street Brewing has been under attack by its landlords."

On Monday, the Sudlows received a writ of restitution in Jefferson County Superior Court, which ordered the tenants to vacate this Friday.

Burr and Law said they plan to be off the premises by then and "have several options to find a new location locally," according to Law.

"We hope to find another storefront nearby," she said.

Law said she did not know exactly how long it would take to move out of the building.

The business brews its own beer on the premises and would need to move that operation as well.

Sudlow said Monday other options exist for the space, and that "several people" have shown interest in opening a restaurant in the location, which is in the heart of downtown.

The Sudlows reported a series of noise-related issues in a supplemental declaration filed May 10.

A condition of the lease was a restriction that the noise level not exceed 85 decibels, which is stricter than that imposed by the city and was put into effect for the consideration of the adjacent Water Street Hotel, which the Sudlows also own.

As evidence, the Sudlows presented several audio charts taken at the restaurant's door on April 30, which showed noise spiking above the prohibited level.

Additionally, the declaration claimed that restaurant personnel were "verbally abusive" to the Sudlows as they attempted to collect data quantifying the noise.

Port Townsend Police Sgt. Ed Green said his department has investigated "numerous noise complaints" connected to the restaurant over the past several years.

Burr said the restaurant signed a five year lease in 2004 for $6,389 per month, with two five-year options.

He said the Sudlows refused the first renewal option on early 2009, asking for a rent increase to $10,500 a month.

The restaurant sought mediation, which came up with the figure of $7,944, which has been paid ever since, according to Burr.

Burr said he is not in arrears for the rent but acknowledges that he was 13 days late on the June payment.

After the late period, Sudlow filed his action and obtained the writ and did not withdraw the action even though the rent was paid and the check has been cashed.

Law said she did not know whether Sudlow would provide reimbursement for the five days rent since the business is to vacate before the end of the month.

Burr said he does not expect any reimbursement for the money put into the business from Sudlow.

He would not say whether he planned any legal action in order to recover the investment.

The restaurant employs 25 people and has 200 to 400 regular customers, according to Law.

She said its management is working to "get the word out to everybody" about the closing.


Jefferson County reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 21. 2010 10:32PM
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