That One Place restaurant’s COVID battle with state appears headed to court

Port Orchard restaurateur adamant his establishment didn’t violate governor’s directive

By Mike De Felice

Special to Kitsap Daily News

PORT ORCHARD – That One Place restaurant’s owner, who faces $132,000 in fines over alleged COVID-19 violations, said he is not interested in accepting an offer by the state of Washington to significantly reduce those fines.

As a result, the case now appears headed to trial, according to a state Labor and Industries spokesperson.

That One Place owner Craig Kenady insists he has not received a settlement offer from the state, and even if one is offered, he said he will turn it down.

“We won’t take an offer anyways unless their offer is to do the right thing and drop everything,” Kenady said.

The Port Orchard establishment repeatedly served patrons indoors at a time such service was barred by Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID restrictions, according to L&I investigators. That One Place was subsequently issued 11 violations by the state.

In essence, the violations were for allegedly endangering the health and safety of restaurant employees and the public by conducting inside food service at a time when such service was barred. Each violation carries a $12,000 fine.

Kenady denies his restaurant violated the directive and is appealing the fines. He has said the fines are unlawful and some of them were issued for days the restaurant was closed. The case is now before the state Board of Industrial and Insurance Appeals. Attempts to mediate and resolve the fines have been unsuccessful, said L&I spokesperson Dina Lorraine.

“During the mediation process [Kenady] refused to consider any resolution other than vacating the citation in its entirety and reducing the fine to zero. Because we were not able to do that, the case moved to the hearing process,” Lorraine said.

Kenady rejects the notion that his establishment was in violation of the governor’s directive.

“We don’t owe them any money and will expect them to prove this claim that we put our employees in ‘immediate danger of death’ as they claim as their reasoning,” the restaurateur said.

“We will still not pay, even if the L&I judge says we have to — as he will. They can continue to attempt to get money from us forever and we will not pay. They can take our license to operate and we will still not pay,” Kenady said.

Lorraine said the door to settling the case is only open so long.

“[L&I] can continue to negotiate throughout the hearing process, but because of the cost of having to litigate, our settlement offers are off the table by the time the hearing starts,” Lorraine said.

A total of $7 million in COVID fines have been imposed across the state, the spokeswoman said.

The next proceeding in the That One Place case is a conference with the Industrial Appeals judge on Oct. 15. Unless a settlement is reached, the case is expected to have a trial date set, she said.