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Some Manette businesses down 40 percent since Manette Bridge closure

Road closure and “businesses open” signs are pictured on Harkins Street in Manette. Since the Manette Bridge closure in July, area business owners say business has been tough. - Kristin Okinaka/staff photo
Road closure and “businesses open” signs are pictured on Harkins Street in Manette. Since the Manette Bridge closure in July, area business owners say business has been tough.
— image credit: Kristin Okinaka/staff photo

Their numbers are down, yet Manette business owners aren’t blaming the economy — it’s the bridge.

Since the Manette Bridge’s closure to all motor vehicles July 24, traffic has been rerouted via the Warren Avenue Bridge, but many Manette business owners say they aren’t seeing much business from the longer route.

The 81-year-old bridge is being replaced buy the Washington State Department of Transportation and the new bridge remains scheduled to open in November.

“This is the toughest time we’ve been through,” said Brett Hayfield, owner of the Boat Shed in Manette. “We make money in the summer and hang on in the winter. It’s a real struggle now.”

Hayfield and his wife Kathy have owned the restaurant for 31 years and said since the bridge closure, business has been down 25 percent.

Kathy Hayfield said that because of the closure, people don’t know how to get to the restaurant — or if they do, they must take a detour — and the restaurant’s parking lot is also now gone due to construction.

“It’s a triple whammy,” she said last week.

Rebecca Dove Taylor, who lives in Manette and has been the owner of the Manette Saloon and Side bar for 16 years, also said she hasn’t seen a hit like this to the business community before.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen such a travesty,” she said, adding that Manette already lost two businesses after the bridge closure.

Since the city knew that construction and a closure to the bridge would occur, Dove Taylor said she wishes something had been done to better prepare for it.

“Now that we’re all suffering, that’s when we get help,” she said.

A recent meeting bringing business together in search of solutions to the geographically driven downturn was held by Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent and City Councilman Adam Brockus, whose District 3 includes Manette.

Last Friday they discussed the struggle to do business on a corridor that. for the moment, doesn’t act like one.

Dove Taylor said a meeting to prepare prior to the bridge closure would have been ideal.

“We didn’t realize what would happen by the early bridge closure,” Lent said. “The economy has affected the city and county and now businesses are exasperated with the construction site.”

Lent said the business owners are encouraged to apply for a relief fund from the state for their loss of revenue due to the bridge closure, which is a state project. The city will also be adding more signs other than generic “businesses open” to hopefully boost traffic, she added.

“No one knew that this was coming. We didn’t anticipate 30 to 40 percent losses,” Brockus said of some businesses’ revenue that has been down by that much. “Now we’re doing what we can so that they don’t go out of business before the bridge opens in November. We’re working together.”

For Sariann Irvine, owner of Special Fx Salon, the bridge closure has not affected her business as much as it has others.

“Our clientele is pretty solid, even if it takes GPS to reroute them,” Irvine said, adding that many live locally in Manette.

However, Irvine said that the food and beverage establishments in the area are struggling.

One of the original advantages to the old bridge and eventually the one replacing it is that Manette became a consistently walkable distance to downtown and the shipyard.

“We’re one of those lucky ones,” Irvine said. “It will only get better when the bridge opens.”

Jessica Husted, owner of Der Blokken Brewery, said her Manette business has been steadily growing since its March 2010 opening. However, since the bridge closure, her numbers have been lower than when she first opened.

“We are doing everything we can to get people in. I don’t know what more we can do,” Husted said, adding she doesn’t have a budget for big marketing projects.

Husted acknowledged her regular customers and that because Bremerton is a transient community with the military, businesses just need to reach out more — especially with the bridge closure. She added that they did not expect as many pre-closures before the old bridge closed for good in July.

The Manette Bridge is scheduled to reopen Nov. 10 and Jeff Cook, the project engineer with the state Department of Transportation, said the project remains on track but that it is “weather sensitive.”

“If we get a string of bad weather, it may affect that,” Cook said Monday. “It’s on track but there’s always risks. As of today, that’s the date.”

The business owners and city officials hope there are no delays.

“We’ll make it through. It’s nice to have help,” Dove Taylor said.

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