By Steve Guntli
Riding a wave of positive public response, the Drayton Harbor Oyster Company (DHOC) is looking to expand during the summer months.
At the regular meeting of the Blaine parks and cemetery board, DHOC co-owner Mark Seymour presented a proposal for an outdoor dining area in H Street Plaza. Seymour, whose storefront is located near the plaza at 677 Peace Portal Drive, said he wants to do more grilling in the summer. He said this would not only provide a fun social atmosphere and delicious food, but it would also allay some safety concerns that arise during the summer.
“There’s a bacteria called vibrio parahaemolyticus that shows up in raw oysters during the warmer season, which can make people sick,” Seymour said. “As a precautionary measure, the department of health shuts down recreational oyster harvesting in the area when the temperature rises above 70 degrees. So we figure if we can’t have the raw oyster bar during that time it’s a great opportunity to break out the grill. We think it’s going to be a big draw for the area.”
Currently, Seymour only grills oysters on the sidewalk in front of their store when the weather is nice. Seymour wants to rope off an approximately 12 by 25-foot strip of H Street plaza along the white wall to set up a grill and seating for about 25 people. Pending the approval of a liquor license, Seymour also hopes to sell beer and wine.
Seymour expressed concern that the outdoor seating might interfere with the Saturday gardeners market, but market manager Ron Snyder quickly put his fears to rest.
“We gladly welcome this as a powerful and positive addition, not just to the market but to Blaine,” Snyder said. “If a town doesn’t have things that people love to do with each other, why are we even a town? We support this completely.”
The parks board expressed enthusiastic support for the project, as well.
“People have been begging for something like this in this town,” said board member Angie Dixon. “This is really the kind of thing that could show off Blaine and draw people here. I think this is the greatest thing ever.”
Seymour said he still needed to check the proposal out with the Whatcom County Health Department before proceeding. DHOC has already been grilling oysters at the Bellingham Farmer’s Market every Saturday.
The company has sold oysters out of the market for the last three years, but this year is the first time they’ve sold them grilled. Seymour said the company has approval from the Whatcom County Health Department to grill the oysters there, and he hopes the permit will extend to the Blaine store.
“We don’t anticipate a problem,” he said. “This is just an extension of what we’re doing in Bellingham and out on our sidewalk.”
Board member Ayn Balbeck said the company’s success in Bellingham is proof the outdoor grill would be good for Blaine.
“If this is working in Bellingham, it seems silly to me not to capitalize on it here,” she said.
Seymour said he was concerned about the mold and rust along the white façade, and proposed a nautical mural to liven up the wall. He even offered all proceeds from his company’s Fourth of July sales to be used for the painting.
“Last year was our first time working Fourth of July, and we did really well with our little grill up near Martin Street,” Seymour said. “We had always planned on giving 100 percent of the proceeds this year towards community projects, but I thought the idea of a mural on that wall would be really cool. I haven’t spoken to the owner of the building yet. It’s still a really fresh idea, but hopefully we can make something happen.”
The parks board approved the proposal 7–0. The next step is to obtain a right of way obstruction permit from the Blaine public works department and ensure total compliance with the Whatcom County Health Department. If all goes well, Seymour said he hopes to have the outdoor seating set up from July to September.