The Black Bear Diner in west Olympia is set to close next month after its owner and its landlord were unable to come to terms on a new lease. The restaurant’s last day is set for Nov. 18, said owner Danny Banwait.
Banwait also owns Black Bear Diner restaurants in Federal Way; Gresham, Oregon, and Vancouver, Washington, he said. The Vancouver location is set to open in December.
Forty-five employees in Olympia will be affected by the closure, but Banwait said some will transfer to Vancouver and Federal Way.
Banwait said Black Bear Diner opened in Olympia eight years ago; he took over in August 2011. But he said his Bothell-based landlord now wants to hike his rent by 60 percent and was unwilling to make improvements to the building.
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“Given the condition of the building, it didn’t make economical sense,” Banwait said about the proposed lease.
He said the Mexican restaurant El Sarape is expected to occupy the building. A representative of the Bothell-based landlord could not be reached Tuesday.
“The community was great to us, and the employees were excellent,” Banwait said. “You get to know their families, kids and spouses.”
“It was a tough one,” he said about the decision to close.
Although the Olympia location is closing, Banwait said he would like to open another Black Bear Diner in Thurston County.
Before Banwait bought the Olympia Black Bear Diner, the restaurant was perhaps best known for a Thurston County health inspection in late 2009 that noted the following: cook did not wash hands during the entire visit; strong evidence of rodents with significant amount of droppings in the kitchen not being cleaned; food in the back kitchen exposed to loose ceiling insulation.
The county was set to close the restaurant, but former owner Tim Augustine closed the business for four days to address the problems. The county also required that the restaurant be inspected weekly. By March 2010, the restaurant scored 100 percent on its health inspection.