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Dirty Dan Harris Steakhouse faces uncertain future after Fairhaven fire

Restaurant employees find new jobs as owner waits on damage assessment

The sign for Dirty Dan Harris Steakhouse hangs in the background Jan. 8 as a pair of construction workers observe the demolition of the Terminal Building.
The sign for Dirty Dan Harris Steakhouse hangs in the background Jan. 8 as a pair of construction workers observe the demolition of the Terminal Building.
By Charlotte Alden General Assignment/Enterprise Reporter

Dirty Dan Harris Steakhouse’s future is uncertain following the Terminal Building fire in December. 

Owner Paul Han said on Tuesday, Jan. 9 that the costs to repair the restaurant are still unknown while insurance adjusters work on the damage estimate.

While the 1890 building didn’t catch fire, it suffered significant water and smoke damage due to being located next to the Terminal Building. The restaurant will likely be closed for several months and could close its current Fairhaven location if insurance won’t cover the repair costs, Han said.

“We want to open Dirty Dan’s but if that doesn’t happen [at the current location], then we might open in another location, maybe close by,” Han said.

Access to Dirty Dan’s — in the E.M. Day Building at 1211 11th St. in Fairhaven — was limited while the Terminal Building was demolished.

Due to the uncertain length of the closure, many of the 18-20 employees were looking for other jobs, and some have already found them. A GoFundMe was created on Dec. 17, 2023, to help employees, and had raised $11,445 as of Monday, Jan. 15. 

Steve Marandola, the bar manager at Dirty Dan’s, said he’s been able to connect some of the employees with jobs in town. He said as a result, some of them will have “minimal disruption” to their day-to-day lives. Marandola said the most “vulnerable” employees have jobs now. 

The GoFundMe funds have been distributed to employees, both Han and Marandola confirmed, and a little bit more is still coming. They also received Christmas stockings from the Fairhaven Association, and gift cards from a community member, Marandola said. 

“The people who did support us is completely overwhelming,” Marandola said. “The community really came out for us. People at other bars and restaurants have been absolutely amazing.” 

Marandola said he had not yet found work elsewhere while he waits to see if Dirty Dan’s reopens.

Han said he wanted to thank people for their support and donations. He said some Dirty Dan’s employees are still looking for jobs and encouraged hiring businesses to consider his employees. 

“My guys … really work hard, so I’m sure they will fit well [at] the other restaurants,” Han said.

Before the fire, Han was planning on selling the restaurant, but said he needs to wait until the restaurant is in “selling condition” before he can do that. 

“At this point it’s not about selling or not selling, it’s about restoring all the damage first,” he said. “Then we’ll decide what’s next.” 

Marandola said he’s hoping all of the employees will be back on their feet soon, and he is eager to see the restaurant reopen.

“I’d love to see Dirty Dan’s reopen and be a better and stronger restaurant,” he said. 

The Bellingham Fire Department is still investigating the cause of the Terminal Building fire. 

The Whatcom County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed that Harris Avenue Cafe and the Old Independent Coffeehouse owner Nate Breaux died from smoke inhalation. His body was found on Dec. 26, 2023, in the fire debris.

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