SEAL ROCK — Attempting to expand a small business’ operations during a pandemic? Most people would call that lunacy. Around here, we call it Luna Sea, as in Luna Sea Fish House.
Luna Sea, the restaurant and fish market that helped put Yachats on many a visiting foodie’s list of must-see attractions, is ready to open a second location to the north, in Seal Rock.
From the outside looking in, the current economy doesn’t appear to foster a welcoming climate for business expansion. However, not only did Luna Sea Fish House survive the limitations placed on the food-service industry due to COVID-19 during Luna Sea’s peak busy season, it flourished.
So, when asked if now was the right time to purchase a second property and open up shop in an additional location, Luna Sea owner Robert Anthony had a simple answer.
“Hey, why not?” he said.
The lodging and food and beverage industries took a tremendous hit last summer as the novel coronavirus prompted the Oregon Health Authority to place limits on hotel occupancy and forbade, then limited indoor restaurant service and seating.
The Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association, using data compiled by a marketing firm and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, estimates 1,185 restaurants closed in 2020 and more than 200 have shut their doors permanently this year, as of last week.
Despite the odds, Anthony says Luna Sea’s original location in downtown Yachats, now in its 19th season of business, had its most profitable summer to date last year.
“I think we just had the right combination pre-COVID to be successful when things got bad,” he said. “We’ve got a whole lot of outdoor seating, which eventually played right into COVID protocols. And I think our staff keeps people coming back. I’ve got a really good staff that’s well liked by our customers.”
In late January, Anthony bought the property that formerly housed Yuzen Authentic Japanese Cuisine and Sushi Bar, at 1011 NW Highway 101 in Seal Rock. Since then, the building has been receiving a makeover on the inside and a fresh coat or two of paint on the outside.
The new location will serve primarily the same menu as Luna Sea in Yachats, specializing in non-farmed seafood. Luna Sea of Seal Rock will open with a bar serving draft beers, ciders and wine. He says the menu in Yachats may soon see the additions of more vegetarian and gluten-free dishes that will carry over to Seal Rock.
Anthony expects to host a bounty of outdoor eaters in Seal Rock on picnic tables and a dining area he called pavilion-like. Anthony is already booking live music acts to play the restaurant in Seal Rock, just as in Yachats.
Though initial plans were for Luna Sea of Seal Rock to make its debut in mid March, Anthony says he’s now shooting for a May 15 grand opening date. Though he has about 30 employees on the payroll for the Yachats location alone, and some will be shifting their focus to Seal Rock, Anthony expects to hire an additional 15 employees to fill out the staff in Seal Rock.
“I’d say about 98 percent of our business in Yachats is tourists,” Anthony said. “But I’d say a lot of them are repeat customers. We keep them coming back.”