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Black Bear Diner construction nears
by MATTHEW NASH
The food franchise Black Bear Diner appears on track to open this summer in Sequim.
Bret Wirta, CEO of Wirta Hospitality Worldwide, confirmed that construction should begin this month with a tentative opening around the Fourth of July.
Black Bear Diner is a growing franchise in eight states with more than 50 locations offering breakfast, lunch and dinner. The closest locations are in Federal Way and Olympia.
The diner is set to operate next to Wirta’s Holiday Inn Express and Conference Center. He has worked with the franchise to customize his diner so it can cater for the hotel.
“There are a lot of owners who only own hotels and there are lots of owners who only own restaurants,” Wirta said. “There are very few owners who own hotels and restaurants and even fewer who run them together.”
The project remained in-progress for a few years. Wirta said he initially planned to break ground a few years ago but the recession hit. His original loaning bank went out of business, too, but his current bank has continued support for the diner.
“We wouldn’t be going forward without this bank’s support and the Small Business Administration,” he said.
“There’s not much construction going on here or nationwide for new hotels and motels and there’s not many new restaurants either. I feel fortunate to have a loan right now in a difficult economy.”
The diner faced a building permit deadline at the end of 2011 for a water meter and water and sewer lines installation. Wirta paid the permit fees on Dec. 20.
“One of the reasons we continue to build here is the city is easy to work with,” Wirta said.
Seattle to Sequim
Wirta said his intent with the diner is to help attract more people from the Seattle area.
“What this means is that we have an opportunity to bring more people in,” he said. “This isn’t to divide more dollars among those who eat here.”
Another recent effort of his to bring more tourists here includes sponsoring the first Sequim Balloon Festival in September.
“Everything is to bring more people here especially in the offseason,” he said.
Despite the slumping economy, Wirta said his company had its best year ever in 2011 and he’s excited to make progress on the diner.
“I’m grateful for the community and can’t say enough for their support,” Wirta said. “It really makes me feel glad I chose our first operations in Sequim.”
He scouted Sequim in 2007 and chose it over nine other growing Pacific Northwest cities.
East Sequim’s future
Near the diner and hotel, the Simdars Road interchange remains unfinished.
The project was to allow drivers to enter the highway westbound and exit eastbound, which they currently can’t do.
Kelly Stowe, speaking for the Washington State Department of Transportation, reports that currently there is no funding for the project and that the Legislature determines which projects go forward. The interchange remains in the “2007-2026 highway system” plan to investigate solutions for finishing the project.
A number of commercial spots remain open along East Washington Street, including at Bell Creek Plaza where QFC operates.
Wirta said the bypass plans were in place for the interchange when he bought the property for the Holiday Inn and diner.
He thinks completing the Simdars project would help businesses on East Washington Street if the project were complete but he mainly wants it done for a safer traffic flow.
In the coming months, look for updates on the Sequim Black Bear Diner on Facebook.
Contact Holiday Inn Express, 1441 E. Washington St., Sequim, at 681-8756. Look for more on Black Bear Diner at www.blackbeardiner.com.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.