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Bremerton business falls from economic friendly fire
For Bremerton business owner H. John Bridger, it seems impossible to understand and even more impossible to justify the loss of his lease, but economic hardship has forced the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority’s hand and left Bridger with no place to go.
Bridger, who owns the popular downtown sandwich shop Henry’s Deli & Café, has until Nov. 20 to shut down his business and move out of the space he leases from KCCHA, according to Executive Director Debbie Broughton.
“I am a small business owner,” Bridger said. “I don’t have the thousands of dollars it would take to move. This isn’t an office with a few chairs and desks, this is a restaurant.”
Bridger said he moved into the space inside the Norm Dicks Government Center with no lease in September 2008 with the idea he would get a lease at a later date.
“As of December 2008, I still had no lease,” he said.
Bridger said he constantly asked the housing authority’s board of commissioners to give him a lease, but was unsuccessful until June 2009.
“In June, they gave me a five-year lease, but it didn’t last,” he said.
The lease he signed had a clause in it which allowed for him or KCCHA to terminate the lease with 120 days notice and, according to Bridger, that is exactly what they did in July 2009.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “One month after I sign a five-year lease, they tell me I have to move. I’m still shocked.”
Bridger’s business employs eight people and has been profitable since opening a year ago, which just adds to his frustration.
“I have one of the few viable businesses in the revitalized downtown area,” he said. “The county doesn’t support small business. I’d like to ask them why.”
Broughton said the decision had less to do with Bridger and his business and more to do with the current economic situation.
“The buildings in Silverdale were pledged as collateral on a county loan through Key Bank,” she said. “We are releasing that collateral to the bank to settle the debt and reduce our costs.”
Once the Silverdale offices are no longer property of KCCHA, the organization will move back to the space it owns in the Norm Dicks building, which includes the space currently occupied by Henry’s.
For Bridger, the issue goes beyond the closing of his restaurant.
“(KCCHA) moved out earlier this year,” he said. “And now they are moving back in during the same year using taxpayer dollars to move.”