By Wyatt Haupt Jr. and Dave Haviland
The Daily World
Robust crowds on Memorial Day Weekend in Grays Harbor County have local business owners excited about the prospects for the summer season given COVID-19 restrictions should soon be relaxed.
Thousands of visitors spilled into the county over the three-day period, in turn packing brew pubs and restaurants with some establishments seeing record-breaking sales and attendance figures.
“We were very happy,” said Roy Seeman, who owns Ocean Pours Taproom at 759 Ocean Shores Blvd. in Ocean Shores. “We set a (sales) record.”
Seeman, who founded the taproom at the end of 2018, said beer sales hit a new high on Saturday, May 29, and were followed by solid numbers on Sunday, May 30.
The strong beginning to the unofficial start of the summer season, which officially begins Monday, June 21, has Seeman pumped about what lies ahead for the business.
An expansion to the existing beer garden will add about 2,000 square feet of space to accommodate the expected jump in business going forward.
The taproom also plans to add four outdoor taps in the beer garden and start selling food.
“We went and took a leap of faith and bought a food cart,” said Seeman, who added the expansion could be wrapped up by the end of June.
The food cart will likely feature burgers, hot dogs and wings to start. He said growth of the business is the direct result of community support.
“Even with COVID, our locals have been extremely loyal and have proved to us that this is a viable business,” he said.
About a half-mile away at Bennett’s Fish Shack, business was also booming over the holiday period.
“Record breaking,” said Ron Lambert, operations manager for the restaurant at 105 W. Chance A La Mer in Ocean Shores, who was referring to the people who showed up and food that was cooked.
But, he said, the success of the business has come at a cost. The business is closed one day a week, largely because Bennett’s is having trouble hiring enough people to work at the restaurant, which opened in 2011.
“It’s so frustrating that we’ve had to close on Wednesdays because we don’t have anybody to hire,” said Lambert, who added that Bennett’s Fish Shack at 2581 Westhaven Drive in Westport is also closed on Wednesdays.
“We can’t close any more days than that … We have to take care of our team members,” he said.
Despite the workforce issue, the restaurants are coming off a strong year.
“We’re really proud of the things we were able to pull off in 2020,” he said.
And, much like Seeman, he credited community support for making it possible and is looking forward to the summer season at the beach.
“All through COVID, they’ve been wonderful. Our customer base has been outstanding,” Lambert said.
He added, “We are excited about what 2021 is bringing us … People are loving this. It’s nice to see America back.”
Business was also up noticeably in downtown Aberdeen, which should bode well for Tom Sutera in the months ahead. He owns Game Day Sports Bar & Grill at 212 S. I St. The bar and grill recently relocated from its previous location at the Shoppes at Riverside.
“Friday (May 28), Saturday (May 29) and Sunday (May 30) were really good,” said Sutera, who opened the family-friendly sports bar and grill in December 2019.
“Monday (May 31), the actual holiday was pretty good for about three hours.”
Sutera said he’s managed to add some staffers ahead of the busy summer season. The 5,000-square-foot, upper story space is big enough to seat more than 100 people.
“I really think that we are going to need the extra seating,” he said.
Close proximity to other businesses also helps, as evidenced by the referral Game Day Sports received last weekend from Karen Rowe, who along with husband Ryan Rowe, own and operate Grays Harbor Wine Sellars at 206 S. Broadway St.
“There was one couple from Seattle looking for a good place for chicken wings, so we sent them to Game Day Sports one block over,” Karen Rowe said.
She said she can usually spot the tourists among the local residents.
“They’re looking for something specific,” she said.
So are local business owners, who have longed to return to what things used to be like before COVID-19. They should soon see a move in that direction given Gov. Jay Inslee has announced Washington is heading toward a statewide reopening date of June 30.
“We look forward to our busy time,” Lambert said.