The iconic Pacific Northwest seafood franchise Ivar’s will close its long-standing restaurants Acres of Clams and Salmon House on September 28, and doesn’t plan to open either back up until at least next spring.
In a statement provided to Eater Seattle, the company cited the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the closures, since both full-service restaurants are in tourist-heavy neighborhoods: Acres of Clams sits on Pier 54 downtown, and Salmon House is right by Lake Union in Northlake.
Ivar’s tried to make adjustments for both restaurants during the pandemic to stay afloat. The company reduced expenses, offered expanded delivery services, and introduced new menu items, including a full slate of barbecue offerings. But the efforts weren’t enough, and Acres of Clams and Salmon House have not come close to breaking even this year sales-wise, the company said.
“Without cruise passengers, conventions, tourists, banquets, Sounders, Seahawks, and Mariner fans, and workers in the downtown offices, there are few people eating in our full service restaurants,” said owner Bob Donegan. “We fear when the weather changes and the rains return, we lose outside dining and we won’t have any customers.”
Ivar’s fans can still get the famed fried fish offerings at takeout windows in front of each restaurant, as well as the Ivar’s Mukilteo Landing and the chain’s 17 other fast-casual seafood bars throughout Western Washington, all of which will remain open. The company also said it would open its food booths in local sports venues, such as CenturyLink Field, if fans are allowed to attend games at some point. And the retail chowder operation in Mukilteo will maintain its production.
About 90 employees will be impacted by the changes. “We are working to find spaces for them in our seafood bars, chowder production plant, or providing referrals to other restaurants,” Donegan tells Eater Seattle. “Almost every one has said s/he would like to come back if we reopen in the spring.”
Still, the future is uncertain, and the temporary closures further highlight the challenges all restaurants face in Seattle. Both Acres of Clams and Salmon House have been fixtures of the city’s dining scene for decades (Acres is the 74 year-old flagship of the franchise). While there’s no guarantee conditions will be optimal for reopening either restaurant in 2021, Ivar’s at least has the luxury of time to try to figure things out. In a statement, the company said it was able to “modify” leases with its current landlords, something other restaurants in the city without the resources of such an established name may not be able to do so easily.