Sound off: Why Adam and David decided to leave Oak Harbor

By Adam Hand

My name is Adam Hand. I am the former owner and executive chef of The Bay City Bistro, formerly located on historic Oak Harbor Pioneer Way. I am writing this letter to clarify the reasoning behind closing the semi-fine dining bistro that I successfully ran for three years.

I started Bay City Bistro in May 2007 and the lease was up for renewal in April 2010. To be clear, I did not have any second thoughts of renewing my three-year lease for the place that I grew to love, until the downtown road construction project was introduced and voted on by the City Council. Only then did I start to worry about the progress of my business in that historic location. Despite the local gossip my reasoning was not a question of a one-way or a two-way street, though that issue is surrounded by its own consequences. I based my decision on the way the city council was treating the downtown merchants.

Their way of following through on a decision to beautify the street was conducted in an alienating manner to all business owners. Now, I am all for the beautifying of downtown. I know the street has its issues and would love to see it set right. The fact the street is being redone is not the issue that I am fighting. It’s the way the city is planning this event, the manner in which they are conducting the project, and the false facts that are being conveyed to the community. They came to us in merchant meetings and said plans would be set in a way to limit the loss of business then went to three council meetings and told us to our faces that it would be perfectly acceptable to lose 85 percent of businesses in the downtown, and that this would make for “higher end, upscale” stores and restaurants to come in after the project is done.

This statement highly offended me and I wasn’t offended just for my bistro, but for all my fellow merchants in which I shared my life on Pioneer Way. For that statement seems to be the mission statement for the whole project. Lying to our faces and hoping that we go out of business to leave a vacant downtown. They propose an 11-month construction project on a street where businesses don’t have back doors, and the only help they tried to offer was a bunch of lies that we were told behind closed doors. This isn’t any way for a city to treat its small businesses. We could thrive more as a community if only we felt the city, like other cities, cared about us.

I can’t help but to imagine if I treated the council members the same way they treated us in the city meeting when they came to eat at my restaurant; how they might feel about me if I told them I had a special dish for them and I convinced them or order it. But when I brought it out it would be something completely different. They would send it back and say, “This isn’t what you promised me.” I would roll my eyes at them, head back into the kitchen and come back with an unchanged plate and a bill to place in front of them and walk away.

That seems to be the way all of us in the downtown feel. As a result, a lot of us have left, or plan on leaving, or want to leave but can’t. Those of us staying have a gloom over us brought on by the city, and all there is to do is wait and see what happens to our businesses. So when it came time to sign a renewal for Bay City Bistro, my partner and I discussed what the future held for us in Oak Harbor. We decided to quit while we were ahead so our city wouldn’t put us out of business as well.

Adam Hand and David N. Hand II are former owners of the Bay City Bistro in Oak Harbor.

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