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Harborside sold

After months of accusations, citations and the politics of public testimony, the Harborside Bar & Grill is moving to Bremerton.

Harborside owner Scott Hlinka disclosed on Thursday he has withdrawn his pending application for a permanent liquor license and sold his space to longtime Gig Harbor resident Mark Long.

Hlinka and Long will finalize the sale Tuesday.

“We just didn’t want to leave it to chance,” Hlinka said. “We didn’t want to leave our future in the hands of the (Washington State) Liquor Control Board and the city.”

According to Hlinka, the process began a little over a week ago through his real estate agent. Hlinka said Long bought the space for an undisclosed five-figure amount.

“It’s a very, very, very good price,” Hlinka said. “He had cash. The amount was right and the timing was right.”

However, Hlinka contends it wasn’t just money that persuaded him to move his business to Bremerton.

“(The city) just doesn’t want us here,” Hlinka said.

Hlinka used the money from Long to put a downpayment on a new location in Bremerton, set to open Oct. 1. Hlinka will move the Harborside, retaining its name and logo, to a new location on Perry Avenue in Bremerton.

He plans to turn the space previously occupied by VJ’s Diner into the largest nightclub in Kitsap County. Hlinka said the new location is almost 9,000 square feet as opposed to the 3,600 feet of the Harborside.

With Long’s money, Hlinka said he won’t be required to pay rent until January of 2005, with enough left over to buy lighting and a sound system for the new bar.

He said he is relieved he no longer had to be in a political spotlight.

“I’m ecstatic,” Hlinka said. “I just don’t want to have to jump through hoops.”

Port Orchard Mayor Kim Abel and building owner Ron Rider are on vacation and are unavailable for comment.

“I wish Scott the best of luck,” said Port Orchard Police Chief Al Townsend. “I think wherever he goes he’s going to have to make sure he complies with the law.”

“I think they had a formula that seemed popular and I wish them the best of luck,” echoed downtown resident Fred Chang.

Townsend said he looks forward to establishing a more positive relationship with the future tenant.

“I’m excited to hear there’s a new business coming to the building,” Townsend said. “I look forward to working with Mr. Long.”

“We’ve always wanted a bar,” said new owner Mark Long. “We hope to turn it into something a little more appropriate for the area.”

Long said the Sunset Bar & Grill will serve high-end food and evolve into a “neighborhood-type bar and lounge restaurant.”

Long said he’s hired an excellent chef he’s known for a long time and expects the food to draw people in.

“We’re going to dress it up, clean it up,” Long said. “It’s getting a facelift and a new name.”

According to Long, the restaurants will focus on outdoor dining and cater to a more adult clientele.

“It’s going to be geared toward middle-aged adults,” Long said.

Long said he has no concern whatsoever about the stigma the Harborside developed in Port Orchard and looks forward to blending in with the community. Originally from Texas, Long said he and his family settled in Gig Harbor in 1989.

Long estimated the Sunset Bar & Grill will be open for business in 60 days.

“I’ve always liked the downtown Port Orchard area,” Long said.

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