Ranch House owners to sue state for flood damage

The Ranch House BBQ restaurant still intends to reopen on schedule after a fire destroyed its roof Sunday, general manager Melanie Tapia said.

Meanwhile, the managers intend to sue the state Department of Natural Resources, alleging that improper forest practices led to the mudslide that destroyed the restaurant at its original location Dec. 3.

The contractor, Bowers Construction, has committed to work “double time” to replace the roof and remove the smoke damage from the remaining building so the restaurant can reopen in late December or early January, Tapia said.

Roofing materials apparently caught fire hours after workers completed the roof, she said. The fire was reported shortly before 11:30 a.m. and firefighters brought it under control 90 minutes later.

The managers secured a $914,000 loan from the Small Business Administration to rebuild the restaurant.

They filed a tort claim with the state Department of Natural Resources in July. It claimed the mudslide started on state forestlands directly above their property where “unreasonable thinning of trees has created an unreasonable risk of landslide,” according to a copy of the document obtained by The Olympian. The slide scoured the area of soil and picked up timber and other debris before destroying the restaurant and temporarily closing a portion of state Route 8.

The state agency has 60 days to resolve the claim before they can sue. Tapia said a lawsuit would be filed no later than Dec. 3, on the one-year anniversary of the loss of the restaurant.

The claim seeks at least $1.85 million in damages. Also lost in the mudslide were the water and septic systems, a cabin, a shop and three other outbuildings, Tapia said.