Krain withstands the test of time and trials

Continued from last week:

  • Tuesday, December 9, 2008 4:44am
  • Opinion

Wally’s World

Continued from last week:

Karen and Glenn Hatch purchased the old Krain Tavern and the surrounding acreage in 1993. They hoped to turn the place into a family restaurant, offering three meals a day of straight-ahead, all-American, meat-and-potato cuisine. They filed the necessary reports and applications and waited for the state and county bureaucracies to approve such a business.

In the meantime, Karen and Glenn started cleaning the place up. It was positively filthy. We can only assume the King County Health Department had occasionally stopped by over the years, but these visits couldn’t have amounted to much because the walls were mildewed and rotten, the restroom facilities and pipes were corroded and nearly every appliance was rusted and malfunctioning. (All in all, Glenn’s trips to the garbage dump cost him more than $1,000.) There was a foul odor behind the bar, so Glenn and his son took it off the wall. They found a dead cat and piles of excrement.

Now friends, as pointed out last week, the Hatch’s building dates back to 1916 and, as far as anyone ever knew, the plumbing, electrical work and carpentry in general had never been sanctioned by any state or county agency – or, for that matter, probably never checked by any “real” professional of any type – so the place was surely in need of some kind of official inspection. However, the authoritarian bureaucrats that descended upon the Krain corner were something else again.

The first county health inspector showed up one afternoon while the owners were still cleaning the place. He said the bathroom needed new faucets that stayed on for two minutes to ensure cleanliness. Glenn changed the faucets. Then, a week or two later, a plumbing inspector said the new faucets had to go because they didn’t conserve water. Glenn changed them again. (Alas, the episode was an inkling of things to come.)

This same inspector told Glenn to move the dishwasher to a new location. Glenn complied. But a few weeks later, the health inspector dropped by again and said the dishwasher had to be moved once more. Glenn complied.

Shortly thereafter, the county fire inspector came around for the first time. He said the place needed new exit signs, new electrical wiring and new fire extinguishers.

A fellow with the Liquor Control Board stopped by and explained the liquor-to-food ratio the business had to maintain. He was a rather pessimistic fellow who told Karen most new restaurants failed within the first two years.

About the same time, the State Highway Department decided to widen the highway at the Krain corner. This would wipe out the building’s septic system, which wasn’t a big deal because the system wasn’t acceptable to the Health Department anyway. Nonetheless, Karen and Glenn found the situation a bit disheartening. A highway bureaucrat bluntly told the owners that “Olympia has decided this isn’t a good place for a restaurant,” which seems like a strange thing for a public servant to say. Then the state offered to buy the building and surrounding property for less than the owners had paid for it. Karen and Glenn enlisted the help of their son, who is a lawyer, and eventually the state bought the frontage it needed for a price that almost, but not quite, paid for a new septic system.

Then, by golly, electricians had to lower a circuit box one inch in order to satisfy new codes. And furthermore, a new Health Department employee ordered the dishwasher moved for the third time.

And, hey, how about the new, rather belligerent, fire inspector who said he’d shut down the restaurant unless a new hood was installed over the kitchen stove and the building was wired with a new fire alarm and fire “suppression” system.

Alas, Karen complains that new inspectors, for one damn thing or another, keep coming around and they have no idea what the old inspectors have told her. One day she decided to move the slicing machine from the front of the kitchen to the back. A few days later, a new health inspector told her this was a “remodeling” move and would require a new permit and a new “schematic diagram” showing where the cutter was now.

But with any luck, at last – finally – Karen thinks she may have nearly all the permits and regulations satisfied. That is, as soon as she complies with a new health inspector’s latest request to move the dishwasher!

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Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at
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