Courthouse cafe closes, cancels convenience

PORT ORCHARD — The Kitsap County Courthouse will no longer host a food service operation, now that its small cafe has closed its doors.

As a result, jurors and on-the-run county employees had to make other arrangements beginning last week.

Honey in the Rock has operated in the courthouse basement for five years and was preceded by another snack bar operation. Earlier this year business owner Diane Kelly renewed her lease, which the county terminated when the fire marshal ruled that the restaurant’s operation endangered the county’s computer system, which is in an adjacent room.

Kelly, who runs a restaurant in Port Orchard, will continue the operation of a small coffee stand in the lobby of the administration building, adding sandwiches and other prepared food items.

While there is no cooking facility. Kelly hopes to offer enough options to satisfy the immediate culinary cravings of visitors and employees.

“We don’t know what to expect,” Kelly said of the new venture. “There will be a lot of trial and error, as we figure out how many sandwiches to prepare each day. Our biggest challenge is telling our customers that we have moved, and changed the menu.”

Kelly said she hopes to vary the menu and offer different selections every day.

After the construction of the new Kitsap County Administration Building in 2006, the basement has been occupied by the cafe and the data storage center.

Since these two functions are not compatible, the county has decided that it will be easier to find a new restaurant location than to move the huge computers that manage the county’s data infrastructure.

The building’s age and structure make renovation difficult. It would cost several million dollars, for example, to retrofit the building with a sprinkler system that would be required in order to meet safety standards.

Information Services personnel have long favored closing the lower floor to the public, citing data security needs. There is also a concern about the kitchen becoming a fire hazard.

The cafe will be missed by its regular patrons, however, for both its convenience and quality. County Clerk Dave Peterson especially favors the breakfast sandwich, which he said “has a lot more bacon than an Egg McMuffin.”

Peterson said the county is not obliged to supply jurors with food, except when they are sequestered. Kelly said she will continue to provide food to juries, taking orders in the morning and delivering by lunchtime.

The county commissioners have also taken advantage of the convenient cuisine. The taco salads have fueled several working lunches.

It was during one such lunch a few weeks ago that the commissioners began exploring alternatives, brainstorming ideas about how to supply food service.

One possibility was to invite a series of small stands, such as the mobile burrito wagons that are popular in other cities.

The commissioners asked Administrative Assistant Carolyn Siems to put together a plan.

Siems has contacted all of the local restaurants and inquired about their delivery policy, and has collected menus from throughout Port Orchard.

The menus and the phone numbers could be posted on the county’s internal network.

Delivery will solve at least one problem, that county employees will be able to hang on to their parking space.

Moving the cafe out of the basement is only the first part of the fire marshal’s ruling, which includes eventually moving all of the computers out of the basement.

This will probably not occur for several years, but moving the cafe has at least decreased the fire hazard.

The room used for the cafe will not be occupied by any other county department, bur will be used as backup space for CENCOM in the case of an emergency.

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