Owners of 2 Richland restaurants unveil plans for Japanese eatery in Kennewick

The first-ever business to signal its interest in joining the Port of Kennewick’s Vista Field is ready to make it official.

Yori Nah and Bumki Hong, owners of two Richland restaurants, offered $95,000 to buy a site in the heart of Vista Field for their latest venture, Kuki Izakaya Japanese Bar & Grill.

The duo plan to install the full-service restaurant in the heart of the yet-to-be-built urban village near Columbia Center mall in central Kennewick.

Vista Field closed to air traffic at the end of 2013 and the port pursued its vision of a walkable village filled with residential, retail, office and other uses, including restaurants.

After spending $5 million on roads, water features, utilities and other infrastructure for the first phase, the port struggled to find businesses interested in buying property and building according to its standards.

That changed last March, when Nah and Hong, who operate Ara Sushi & Grill on George Washington Way and the new Chicken and Bowl restaurant on Swift Boulevard, both in Richland, publicly confirmed they wanted to open a restaurant there.

They told the Tri-City Herald they wanted to bring an Ara-style restaurant to Vista Field and were working to develop a plan to make the dream a reality..

In the intervening months, they developed a Japanese restaurant concept, designed a building with an industrial-chic vibe and arranged financing to buy the property and finance construction.

Kuku Izakaya will serve a range of Japanese cuisine, including sushi rolls, sashimi, ramen, appetizers, desserts and more.

Nah will own the business and it will be managed by Hong.

Deal details

As part of the offer, the restaurant submitted a letter from Summit Funding Inc. confirming it is eligible for a $1.5 million loan for an owner-occupied restaurant.

Construction would occur in two to three years at 697 Crosswind Blvd.

They also submitted a letter of recommendation from their food vendor, Young Ocean Inc., a Kent food wholesaler. Young Ocean confirmed it supplies seafood, meat and dry goods to Ara and to Chicken & Bowl. The businesses have good credit and pay their bills, it said.

“We are fully confident that his business track record and acumen shall benefit the Port of Kennewick’s plan to develop a new village there,” it said in a Feb. 7 letter of recommendation.

Nah and Hong project 800-1,000 customers per week in the first year, generating annual sales of $1.3 million. By the third year, traffic is expected to grow to 1,800 customers per week, generating $2.6 million in sales.

The Port of Kennewick commission is expected to consider entering negotiations with Nay and Hong at its regular business meeting at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 27.

Commission meetings are open to the public.

Access the session online at meet.goto.com/780078957 or dial in by calling 866-899-4679, access code 780-078-957.

Vista Field background

Trainee pilots from Naval Air Station Pasco used Vista Field to practice taking off and landing from a simulated aircraft carrier deck during World War II.

After the war, it became a popular municipal airport catering to private pilots and businesses but without Federal Aviation Administration financial support, it struggled and the port made the controversial decision to close it.

The port is working to transform the 103-acre property into a mixed-use development and established design schematics to guide future developers.

To date, only three purchase offers have been made public and no projects have advanced to actual construction.

Blueberry Bridal Boutique, a high-end shop, initiated discussions to buy a site at Vista Field last July. Blueberry is still working to put its financing together.

In December, Vancouver-based Akula Group stepped forward with an $8 million plan to construct apartments, condominiums, retail shops and other amenities in a five-story building at the corner of Crosswinds Boulevard and Azure Drive.

Go to vistafield.com

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