ONE OF THE Port of Seattle's top backers of mooring yachts at Fishermen's Terminal is leaving his Port job. The top boss at the Terminal also is being reassigned. And the Port is about to give a long lease to a Shilshole Bay eatery and bar that was under the threat of being replaced by a high-end restaurant.
Have the Port's upscale notions suddenly taken a downward turn? Just a coincidental collision of events, claims Port spokesperson Mick Shultz. "These things are not related in that sense."
Last week, the Port announced that the head of its seaport division, Steve Sewell, is leaving to "pursue new challenges." Shultz says emphatically, "He was not fired." In fact, Sewell is still on the job and may be until July.
A news release detailing Sewell's accomplishments—cruise ship expansion and redevelopment of the central waterfront among them—didn't mention his backing of the controversial, now-approved plan to allow pleasure boats to dock at the historic fishing terminal.
It was a move that angered fishers, who are still fighting the changes. They regularly denounced Sewell and Fishermen's Terminal manager Jim Serrill, who has just been named head of waterfront security. Again, Shultz insists, Serrill's transfer had nothing to do with terminal politicking.
"Our security procedures are evolving [since Sept. 11], and this move is part of that. Jim has a background in security."
At Charlie's restaurant on Shilshole Bay, however, they're pretty sure they've notched a win over upscaling. At a Saturday night party, supporters showed up for free food and music at an elbow-to-elbow victory party.
"We've got a lease good for three years, with options that can extend it to five," owner Mike McCann said over the din of revelers. Following a Seattle Weekly story on the pending closure (See "Charlie's Ousted," Dec. 13, 2001), more than 800 supporters signed a petition asking the Port to extend the lease at Charlie's, a Shilshole fixture for 35 years.
"You never know what goes on behind the Port's closed doors," said McCann, "but public pressure had to make a difference in our case."
The Port's Shultz says, "The Port was never interested in kicking out Charlie's," and that a new agreement "looks very promising."
Charlie's bartender Carmen Guttormsen, whose grandfather was an architect years ago on the Charlie's/Port building and whose mother and daughter both helped out at the Saturday night event, said the Port just couldn't overlook the pleas of Charlie's supporters. A Catholic priest even announced the threat of closure at his church, whose members pitched in on the petition drive, she says.
"We invited everyone we could reach who signed the petition, saying come in for a thank-you buffet tonight—about 350 people," Guttormsen said, filling a long line of drink orders. "Looks like they all came."