Liquor Control Board bans pot from Washington bars

Staff writerDecember 18, 2013 

December might be the last month marijuana smokers can legally toke up at Frankie's Sports Bar & Grill, if the Liquor Control Board adopts a rule change now under consideration.

STEVE BLOOM/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

The state Liquor Control Board on Wednesday adopted a rule change that makes it illegal for any liquor-licensed establishment to allow marijuana consumption of any kind on its premises.

The rule change likely goes into effect 30 days from Wednesday's unanimous board vote, said Mikhail Carpenter, a spokesman for the Liquor Control Board. That means, starting on or about Jan. 17, marijuana smokers can no longer light up on the second floor of Frankie's Sports Bar on Pacific Avenue in Olympia.

Frankie's has been allowing bar patrons to smoke marijuana in an upstairs private room for about a year. Frankie's owner, Frank Schnarr, has argued that members could smoke legally there after the passage of I-502, which made it legal for adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana in Washington state.

All Washington bars except for Frankie's currently prohibit smoking of any kind, but Schnarr won a prior legal battle to allow patrons to smoke cigarettes and other tobacco products in an upstairs room, provided that they pay $10 in annual dues to become "Friends of Frankie's."

Schnarr has said that business at Frankie's is booming since he's allowed second-floor marijuana smoking. His club has about 13,500 members, Schnarr has said.

Schnarr has spoken out against the Liquor Control Board rule change, and said he will ignore it.

Carpenter said that the Liquor Control Board will enforce its rule change at any liquor-licensed bar that allows its patrons to smoke marijuana. Justin Nordhorn, chief of enforcement for the board, has said the rule change is not meant to specifically target Frankie's. He said that he has heard reports from numerous enforcement officers in King County that other bars are allowing patrons to smoke marijuana.

According to the rule change, liquor-licensed establishments that catch customers using marijuana on their premises are supposed to throw them out.

Carpenter added that the board's goal is make sure bars comply with the new law. But ultimately, a bar that repeatedly allows patrons to use marijuana could face fines and is putting its liquor license at risk, he said.

The Liquor Control Board has stated that the rule change was necessary to bring its rules into compliance with I-502, which prohibits consumption of marijuana "in public view."

Board members also have expressed public safety concerns about bar patrons smoking marijuana, drinking alcohol and then driving home.

Schnarr has said the rule change violates his right to due process and he will fight the matter in court. Schnarr's attorney, Shawn Newman, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445 jpawloski@theolympian.com

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