The fireworks get started at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the ballroom of Bremerton’s Kitsap Conference Center (you know, the place behind Anthony’s at the ferry terminal). Yes, that means you can take full advantage of Anthony’s happy hour (3 to 6:30 p.m.) before you get talking about public options, death panels, and underground tunnels.

The whole event will be broadcast live on if you insist on participating in democracy from the comfort of your couch. Here’s hoping for a lively, respectful debate, Bremeton style.

<i>Anthony's Happy Hour runs from 3 to 6:30 p.m. daily.</i>

Anthony's Happy Hour runs from 3 to 6:30 p.m. daily.

Anthony’s is the Starbucks of seafood. That is to say that it’s predictable, generic, you can get it in any town, and in its genre it’s the best this town has to offer (I’m still waiting for Bremerton’s great coffee shop, but that’s another story that I’ll get to when I’m up to it. Why is it so difficult to serve good coffee in a comfortable setting? Do I really have to listen to the radio commercials over burnt drip?)

While I was entertaining out-of-town guests this week, we took in an outdoor lunch on the Anthony’s deck when I noticed two things: a killer happy hour and a complete asshole. First, the former.

Bear in mind that I haven’t experienced the hh situation first hand yet (I’m on my way right now. Please tell me if I should unpack), but I have had the oyster shooters ($.50 each) and regional microbrews ($3) that are enough to make this well-timed (3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily) happy hour worth a second look, and three hours of your time. Like I said, I’m on my way, as long as I don’t have to sit by the same guy I did last week.

This is why cell phones shouldn’t be allowed in any restaurant, and certain people should not be allowed out of their home without a permission slip. Consider the following:

A family of three are on the deck. I assume they’re tourists because their paper shopping bag says “Westin” on it. (Kids, if this is the hip new grip a la Gap and Banana Republic shopping bags for lunches were in the ’90s, please let me know.) At one point the couple’s daughter had a conversation with her father about a phone call she was about to make. And before the waitress had taken their lunch order — they already had drinks — she struck up a cellular conversation. Upon the waitresses return, the father informed her that they were not ready to oder because “She’s on the phone. Give us five more minutes.”  Then he took his turn on the phone. Seriously. These people exist. What happened? Missed the boat to Bainbridge?

Several minutes later we learned that it was convenient for the family of three to order because the older woman at the table announced “OK, we’re ready!” as the waitress attended to diners not too busy to be bothered by fresh drinks and salmon patties. Damn.

Cary Bozeman, second from right, at the groundbreaking ceremony for Bremerton's Anthony's.

Cary Bozeman, second from right, at the groundbreaking ceremony for Bremerton's Anthony's.

As I mentioned yesterday, I sat down with Cary Bozeman about a month before he announced he would not seek re-election and was stepping down as mayor. Here’s more from our conversation:

What can the city do to fill up these empty storefronts?

You got 10,000 people that live a block from here, right? Why aren’t they coming downtown and shopping in these places, right? A. There’s currently not a product they’re interested in. Except, they go to Anthony’s. B. The downtown’s been pretty unattractive as a place to go. So, you’ve gotta have something that’s gonna appeal to them.

What we can do is bring more people living here so there’s more people dynamically on the street. The retailer’s not going to attract the bodies. The bodies gotta be there.

The retail comes last. It always does. It follows people. It’ll be the last thing to work here. Even Anthony’s, perfect location, 10,000 people at the shipyard, beautiful restaurant, even they, on occasion, they struggle. The retail will be the last to work. This hotel will help. Getting people living down here, going to hotels down here, working down here, that will all eventually help support I think a quality retail space.

You talk about bringing people downtown: Did the housing authority overshoot with the condos in not making it something more affordable?

Yes. Chris, to answer your question, they missed it. They built too far above the market. Their initial sales interest looked encouraging. They really felt like they were OK, the county backed the bonds on it, and in the end, they misjudged. I think had they built a nice project but a little less expensive, they’d have all sold.

Those condos aside, what’s next for bringing people to live downtown?

Penny’s is our next big project. We need quality, affordable, rentable spaces for people who want to live and work downtown. For artists. Part of our strategy downtown is it becomes more of an art community. Ron Sher’s bought the building. The plan is to build four floors of apartments above the Penny’s building, and he’ll put a grocery store in and put retail in. He’s looking for a partner at the moment to do the apartments.

The retailer that we’re looking to attract is a multiplex theater. We’re close. We think that attracts people downtown for retailers. We’ve got a multiplex operator we think will come in. None of this is gonna happen until the economy turns around a little bit.

What kinds of retailers does downtown need as a catalyst?

We haven’t quite gotten the number of shoes on the street yet to support a lot of marginal retailers. If you’re just another Mexican restaurant that somebody can drive to out here in the mall, forget it. It ain’t gonna work. Retail today will only work if it’s special, if it’s quality, and you can’t hardly get it anywhere else. Everything we’re doing here hopefully will support retailers. Not marginal retailers in a market where there’s not enough people. That won’t work.

You think downtown Bremerton has too many marginal retailers?

I have no idea, I’m not a retail expert. I’m just saying any place, not just downtown Bremerton. Retail always comes last. People get impatient. The retail will be the last thing to work in downtown Bremerton. We’ve gotta bring people to live and to work downtown.

This is about lifestyle, living. This is a neighborhood now. That’s the future of these kinds of cities anymore, they’re lifestyle centers. It’s the densest neighborhood in the city, or will be.

10 years from now, 15 years from now, this is gonna be a great place to be, downtown Bremerton. Absolutely no doubt about it.

— Interview conducted, edited, and condensed by Chris Kornelis