The company’s well-known full-service restaurants on the Seattle waterfront and Lake Union would continue to operate as before, but its aging owners would get some cash from the real-estate market.
Ivar’s is seeking buyers for the properties that house its well-known full-service restaurants — Acres of Clams on the Seattle waterfront and the Salmon House on Northeast Northlake Way — with the intention to lease them back long term.
Unlike many restaurant operators, Ivar’s owns the properties, including the land.
Now, with the real-estate market “hot as a pistol” and all four of the Ivar’s owners “getting up in years — in our 60s and 70s,” it seemed like a good time to sell the properties, said Ivar’s President Bob Donegan.
Some of the proceeds would also be reinvested in the chain, remodeling some restaurants, opening new ones and expanding the Ivar’s chowder plant in Mukilteo.
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He said the moves aren’t related to changes in menu prices and employee compensation after Seattle raised the minimum wage. Because Ivar’s is seeking long-term lease-backs on any sale, customers should not notice any change.
In addition to three full-service restaurants, Ivar’s has 23 fish bars. Its fish bars are typically in leased locations.
The company tested the idea with the sale of its Ivar’s Mukilteo Landing property earlier this spring to an entity managed by principals at Seattle-based developer Martin Smith Inc. (The father of H. Martin Smith III, a principal at Martin Smith Inc., was a cousin of Ivar’s founder Ivar Haglund.)
The lease-back arrangement at the Mukilteo location is for 25 years.
“We wanted to see what the process was and if the market was as hot as we thought it was,” Donegan said.
“And it was,” with the company receiving multiple bids, he added.
Commercial real-estate firm Kidder Mathews will handle the sale of the Seattle properties.
A broker’s open house is expected in the next few weeks, Donegan said.
Ivar’s has not put a price on the properties.
Donegan said the moves weren’t influenced by the temporary closure of Acres of Clams due to the seawall construction. The restaurant reopened last July.
Also not a factor, Donegan said, was his decision that the Seattle full-service restaurants would raise menu prices and eliminate tipping, beginning last year, in order to raise the pay of Ivar’s lowest-paid workers directly to $15 an hour — ahead of the city’s new minimum-wage-law timetable.
Next week Donegan will review the full financials for the year since Ivar’s began that experiment last April at its Salmon House.
But to date, he said, of the 103 employees the Salmon House had at the beginning of the change, only one left over the compensation issue.
“Every employee working there today who was working there a year ago made the same or higher income as they made in 2014 and 2013,” Donegan said.
The number of customers has also been about the same, he said.
It’s harder to compare numbers at Acres of Clams since that business was closed, along with many others along the waterfront, for much of last year.
“The people who started with us last July — most of them are still at the pier,” Donegan said.