Business Community Government

Food back in, events out at Olalla Bay Market

Posted on March 31st, 2024 By:

Olalla Bay Market has resumed on-site food and drink service after Kitsap County forbid it for a week.

The country store announced on its Facebook page on March 21 that Kitsap County told them to “immediately cease live music and on-site food service. We cancelled open mic for tonight and we are working to address the concerns brought forward in this letter, as we have been for the past 3+ years. We hope to resume our normal operations as soon as possible.”

The post, which included the notice from the county, said the market could still sell takeout food and retail grocery and gift items. It encouraged customers to support its 15 employees. The message drew nearly 600 comments, many criticizing the county.

The view from the patio at Olalla Bay Market. Charlee Glock-Jackson

A week later, on March 28, the market posted that it was back to full service. More than 200 commenters offered congratulations.

Then, on April 2, the market posted on its Facebook page that the county letter triggered the state Liquor and Cannabis Control Board to ban it from serving alcohol. “We were informed yesterday afternoon that OBM cannot serve or sell any alcohol (including from our coolers) until such time as the county makes its ruling on the use of our property,” it states. “We are open and serving food for onsite consumption and takeaway.”

The ban was removed on Friday, April 5, according to the Facebook page.

But also Friday, a new post informed that on Monday morning, weather permitting, county employees will remove a raised brick flower  garden and repave the area in a move not related to OBM’s permit to fully operate or to a parking issue.

After a neighbor complained, the county re-measured and analyzed the garden’s location several times. Each time OBM was assured the garden was not in the county right-of-way, the post stated. However, county officials recently said the neighbor’s lawyer found a legal precedent in Spokane that now makes the removal necessary. Since the county was unaware of the precedent, the removal and repaving will be done at taxpayers’ expense, according to the post.

The county said it discussed plans to install a rain garden with the owners. “Without obtaining the required right-of-way permit, a 4-foot-high planter was constructed in open county right-of-way,” the county wrote in an email. “As installed, this 4-foot-high concrete block planter poses both visibility and safety concerns. Consequently, the Road Division of the Kitsap County Public Works Department will remove the unpermitted structure and restore the right of way to County standards next week.”

The flower bed that will be removed.

The flower bed that will be removed. OBM photo

“Obviously, we are disappointed that this is happening as the garden was created as a safety measure on a corner at which traffic speeds are sometimes a concern,” the post said. An update was added asking community members not to be angry at the workers.

“Remember that the workers dismantling the garden are members of our community just doing their jobs,” it states. “Let them do their work in peace.”

The property at 13965 Crescent Valley Road is zoned rural commercial, which allows restaurants. But Olalla Bay Market didn’t apply for that use when it opened on April 13, 2023, according to the letter from the Department of Community Development. Kitsap County gave owners Gregg and Claudia Olsen 30 days to reach compliance, during which the market can return to full service, the county told Gig Harbor Now.

Restaurant permit in the works

“A submitted permit is under review and we’re currently awaiting the ownership’s response to comments from our reviewers,” spokeswoman Krista Carlson said in an email Friday.

The county said it issued the notice after learning of unpermitted activities at the market.

“We’re pleased to say we recently had a productive meeting with the owners and feel confident these issues can be resolved,” said Carlson. “We thank them for taking a collaborative approach to address our concerns and look forward to the successful completion of their permits.”

The collaboration evidently included someone asking the owners to not air the situation. Gregg Olsen said they were asked not to speak about it, and they are honoring that request.

Inside Olalla Bay Market. Photo by Charlee Glock-Jackson Charlee Glock-Jackson

The market hasn’t been shy about promoting the pizza, sandwiches, salads, charcuterie platters, beer and wine that are delivered to a few indoor tables and a patio beside the bay. But the county practices complaint-based code enforcement.

“When we receive complaints, we investigate,” Carlson said. “With limited resources, we do not monitor businesses to assure they stay within the bounds of their permits.”

Overflow parking spills over to boat ramp

It wasn’t the food and drink service that elicited complaints. Events drove the notice, Carlson said. And not the events themselves, but the parking problems their crowds created.

Overflow parking spills into the county’s boat launch across the street despite the market’s efforts to discourage it.

“We had to address all the outstanding items at that time,” she said.

Olalla Bay Market would need an event facility permit to host events, such as live music. There is no pathway to that designation, even through an administrative conditional use permit or conditional use permit, according to the county notice.

Claudia, Gregg and Marta Olsen, owners of Olalla Bay Market and The Landing. Photo by Charlee Glock-Jackson

Event facilities are described as sites where private or public events such as weddings, musical performances, parties, reunions, fairs, markets, bazaars, retreats or conferences are conducted in exchange for compensation.”

The polar bear plunge is an exception because it preceded Olalla Bay Market’s opening, Carlson said.

Need a shared-parking agreement

Even with a restaurant permit, the market’s occupancy could be reduced if it can’t solve its parking problem, according to the notice.

“The only outstanding item that is holding up full-occupancy approval of the market is the parking issue,” the notice stated. “… A shared parking agreement is the only pathway to compliance without significantly reducing the occupant load of the buildings.”

Zoning requires a certain number of off-street parking spaces, Carlson said. When adequate parking can’t be achieved on site, a shared-use parking agreement with another property owner can fulfill the requirement. County property and right-of-way can’t.

Landing activities appear OK

The Olsens also renovated the former Olalla post office adjacent to the market. The Landing houses a small museum and meeting space. They rent it out for meetings and private gatherings. Community groups, nonprofits and memorials can reserve it for free.

Activities there appear to be safe. The county said the way The Landing was proposed at the time of permit approval seemed appropriate, but it hasn’t been monitoring it.

Olalla Bay Market is an upscale remake of the longtime Al’s of Olalla country store. Al’s closed in 2020, shut down by the Kitsap County Health District because of problems with the septic system. The Olsens, who have lived nearby for about 30 years, purchased the property in 2021, fixed the septic problems and renovated the buildings. After much of the work had been completed, a fire damaged the store and delayed the opening.