Bar owner’s invitation: Join club, light a joint

jpawloski@theolympian.comDecember 7, 2012 

Frank Schnarr is inviting pot smokers to head on over to Frankie’s Sports Bar & Grill on Pacific Avenue in Olympia, where, he claims, they can toke up legally on his second floor after paying $10 in annual dues to become “Friends of Frankie’s” and members of his private club.

Schnarr, who has never shied away from controversy, said he believes members can smoke legally on the second floor because it is a private club, and members who light up a joint would not be in conflict with state law after voters overwhelmingly passed Initiative 502 in November. I-502, which was enacted Thursday, allows adults 21 years of age and older to legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana in Washington state.

It’s the same legal theory Schnarr used to fight, and win, in his battle to allow patrons of his establishment to smoke cigarettes on the second floor of Frankie’s and in a private smoking room adjacent to the bar on the first floor.

“Sixty percent of my customers already smoke (marijuana) in the parking lot before they come in here,” Schnarr said Thursday. “Nothing will change. Now it will be indoors.”

A sign outside Frankie’s advertises the establishment’s new policy of inviting pot smokers. “Come support the state’s new revenue,” reads the sign. “Rec use on 2nd floor. Members FOF.”

Schnarr’s attorney, Shawn Newman, said his client consulted with him before deciding to allow pot smoking at Frankie’s. “He’s in a very unique position to accommodate this new activity,” Newman said. “As an entrepreneur, he’s taking advantage of the new law.”

Olympia City Attorney Tom Morrill had little to say about Schnarr’s decision to allow pot smoking on the second floor.

“At this point, I don’t have anything to say other than that we’re looking at all the new laws,” Morrill said. “It’s still a federal violation, and he’s taking whatever risk he wants to take.”

Responding to Morrill’s comment, Newman said, “Frank’s a risk-taker. To say the least.”

In addition to winning a legal battle that allowed him to let Frankie’s members smoke cigarettes there, Schnarr also for a time employed bikini-clad bartenders and cocktail waitresses, although that practice was discontinued about a year ago.

Schnarr, 62, said he hasn’t himself smoked marijuana since he was in the Army in the ’70s, when he was stationed in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. He said the decision to allow marijuana smoking at Frankie’s is a “100 percent economic decision,” to boost revenue. He said that ever since the state allowed Indian casinos, where it is legal to smoke, and which pay no taxes, his profits have shrunk.

“It’s a rough business,” Schnarr said. “Our state officials don’t have a clue what we’re going through.”

He also said he’s supporting the state’s decision to boost its own revenue by legalizing marijuana. Schnarr added that he believes patrons who drink too much alcohol will cause him more headaches than marijuana smokers.

Officials at the Washington State Liquor Control Board could not be reached for comment Thursday. The liquor control board is charged with coming up with rules for how individuals can legally grow and sell marijuana with the passage of the new law. Schnarr noted that Frankie’s will not engage in either of those activities.

“I follow the law,” he said.

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445

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