Blaine business owner to open wine bar and event space

The site of the former Bank of America branch building sold in October. Photo by Stefanie Donahue.

By Stefanie Donahue

With more than 20 years of experience owning a business in Blaine, one local entrepreneur is looking to expand.

Alan Finston, owner of Blaine-based Whatcom Physical Therapy, purchased the former Bank of America building, located at 277 G Street, for $372,500 in an online auction in October 2016. Since then, he’s set his aim at opening a wine bar and event space this spring.

Project plans hinge on approval from Blaine City Council, which will soon be tasked with considering a text amendment to the city’s zoning code to, in part, allow eating and drinking establishments and food trucks within the Town Portal District. Finston’s new property falls within that district’s bounds, which span around Interstate-5, F Street and midway between 3rd and G street.

Dubbed a “code scrub” by city staff, the amendment proposal also includes a variety of changes to the city code to correct consequences of previously approved amendments – all requests were combined due to their relatively minor impact, according to a recent staff report.

On January 26, Finston, his business associate and a representative from the Washington Hospitality Association spoke during a Blaine Planning Commission public hearing held to discuss the amendment. All three expressed support, along with more than a dozen others who chose to write letters. After brief discussion, commissioners voted unanimously to recommend approval of the code amendment to city council.

“As a business owner of over 20 years in Blaine, I have seen many changes over the years in downtown,” Finston said to commissioners. “The beating heart of any town is its center and towns that thrive have centers that are vibrant and energetic. By comparis

A map of the central business district. The Town Portal District falls in the section titled “CB TP-60.” Courtesy the city of Blaine.

on, Blaine’s heart, while not in need of a transplant, is overly due of some stents to improve local circulation.”

Finston said he wanted to expand fitness space at his business, Whatcom Physical Therapy (WPT), located at 250 G Street, adding, “I sincerely did not want to see another mailbox store in Blaine,” he said.

Finston plans a 1,000-square-foot studio for use as a group fitness space for WPT and dance and fitness classes taught by third-party instructors.

The full 5,300-square-foot space will be available as an event space to lease for local and private functions for up to 300 people, he said.

If eating and drinking restrictions are lifted in the Town Portal District, Finston plans to open The Vault Wine Bar, a joint venture by him and his wife. The two obtained a business license in December and have already hired a general manager. They hope to sell flights, glasses and bottles of wine, locally made beers and food. Evening wine and art classes, live music and trivia nights are also being considered for the space, he said.

Blaine City Council will likely vote on the amendment proposal at their next regular meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, February 13 at 435 Martin Street, suite 4000.

Blaine Planning Commission, from l., Richard May, Steve Hrutfiord, John LeBrun, Calvin Armerding, Ken Ely and Larry Wonnacott. Not pictured: Susan Sturgill. This was the first planning commission for Hrutfiord and Wonnacott, after being appointed by the Blaine City Council on January 23. Photo by Stefanie Donahue.

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