Ivar’s says it won’t back down after losing Sea-Tac Airport lease

SEATTLE — It’s the name we know and the flavor we’re used to, but Ivar’s Seafood is out at Sea-Tac International Airport.

The airport outpost of the chain has been there since 2005. Now the lease is up and other bidders won out, which is why the artfully crafted public relations machine of Bob Donegan was out at the Port of Seattle headquarters Tuesday afternoon.

“We want to keep Ivar’s at Sea-Tac,” Donegan said, flanked by over a dozen Ivar’s workers in red shirts and the iconic clam mascot.

The airport is expanding and refreshing large parts of terminals and opened bidding for new vendors next year.

Despite being local since 1938---Ivar's lost out.

“We were penalized for not being a small business,” Donegan said.

In a way, that's true.

The Port looked at all bids and weighted them by things like finances, staffing, sustainability and size.

Ivar's has 20-plus locations. Local---but big.

In the Port's mind, the smaller the business, the better---so that helped winning bidders like Macrina Bakery, Seattle Chocolates and Scott Baldwin's Cafe Ladro.

“This is our first introduction into something this big, yeah,” he said.

Ivar's wins on the money front---bidding the highest amount to keep the spot and projections to bring in the most money.

But next door is Kathy Casey's Dish Delish. They are out, too, but will be taking over Ivar's location because of a new partnership with a fellow chef.

“And it was a longtime goal of mine to create, mentor, and support and finance women-owned businesses as I never had the same opportunity,” Casey said.

New construction may have also tipped the scales and been a disadvantage for the seafood chain.

Ivar's claims the Port's priorities are so off-base, it could have kept its lease if it tore down and rebuilt the restaurant instead of keeping things old school.

“The plumbing, the electrical. The walk-in cooler. And as a consequence, our capital cost was minimized. We reused and recycled as good Seattle people do,” Donegan said.

So with petition signatures and Seattle tradition, Ivar's will keep fighting---even if the Port says bigger isn't better.

Just different.