Club that allows weed smoking takes a hit. ‘They all fear the government,’ owner says

Staff file: Frankie’s Sports Bar and Grill as shown in 2003.
Staff file: Frankie’s Sports Bar and Grill as shown in 2003. sbloom@theolympian.com

Olympia bar owner Frank Schnarrs talked about his legal fight with the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board on Tuesday with a Seattle talk radio show.

“The gestapos are coming in, trying to reach my room,” Schnarrs told KVI Radio. “They’re entering a private room without a warrant.”

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board issued an emergency liquor license suspension for Frankie’s Sports Bar and Grill last week, and it will last six months. State officials say they will seek a permanent revocation.

“Frankie’s (Sports Bar and Grill) is no longer in business,” Schnarrs told KVI Radio. “I had to let all of my employees down there go.”

He told The Olympian that the closure affected about five workers, all of whom qualify for unemployment benefits. But he hates that the layoffs happened during the holidays.

“I will take care of those people,” Schnarrs told The Olympian. “It’s a hardship for them, for their families.”

Meanwhile, Schnarrs’ private smoking club, Friends of Frankie’s, which is upstairs from the Pacific Avenue bar, remains open. It’s run by volunteers and only serves members.

But Schnarrs said the state wants to shut down his club, too. He alleges that a state agent recently took marijuana from a medical patient, and assaulted one of his volunteer bartenders.

“It’s very upsetting,” Schnarrs told The Olympian.

Schnarrs said the smoking club, which permits members to smoke tobacco and marijuana, financially supported the Bar and Grill — it wasn’t the other way around.

“I’ve got 16,780 members,” he told KVI.

Many of those members are from out of the area, and joined for $10 a month while they were in the Olympia area, Schnarrs told The Olympian. Some members have annual or lifetime memberships which have different rates.

In a 2013 Los Angeles Times story, Schnarrs talked about the smoking club’s brisk business.

“These stoners are polite people,” he told the LA Times. “I haven’t heard as much ‘Yes, sir’ and ‘No, sir’ in my 25 years in the bar business. And they spend money. After they start smoking, they may not drink as much. But they sure do eat.”

State officials say the bar continued to serve alcohol and allow consumption of marijuana during a five-day suspension in July 2016. That led to another suspension during October.

On Monday, the Thurston County Libertarian Party issued a news release stating that it will stand with Schnarrs and “against continued government overreach and incursion on private property rights.”

Schnarrs’ said the state’s recent actions with the Bar and Grill have scared off many of his regular smoking club members.

“They all fear the government,” he told The Olympian.

Schnarrs said he has been following agreements that he made with the state Department of Health. He said state agents are trying to enforce rules that he doesn’t believe apply to the smoking club.

“I pay my taxes,” he said. “I do what I’m supposed to do.”

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433, @Lisa_Pemberton