Defiant Olympia bar operator Frank Schnarrs is dead at 68

Frank Schnarrs was 68.
Frank Schnarrs was 68. Courtesy

Frank Schnarrs 1950 to 2018

Defiant but popular Olympia bar operator Frank Schnarrs, who publicly battled the state over its smoking ban, died Friday at Providence St. Peter Hospital.

Schnarrs was 68, according to two close friends who spoke to The Olympian.

Husband and wife Greg and Jennifer Travis met with an Olympian reporter at Silvers Saloon on Pacific Avenue — one of two bars owned by Frank and his wife, Cheri, on that street. They declined to name the cause of death, wanting to respect the wishes of Cheri Schnarrs, who could not be reached Sunday.

Memorial services are pending.

“Love him, or hate him, you knew him,” Greg Travis said. He called Schnarrs a “great man” and a “great role model,” saying he always urged people to never give up and “to believe in yourself and your rights.”

Greg Travis had known Schnarrs for about 30 years, first meeting him because he was a friend of his father’s. Jennifer Travis worked for Schnarrs at Frankie’s and at Silvers Saloons.

Schnarrs was admitted to the hospital Friday morning and died later that day, Greg Travis said.

The two were part of a “stay strong” gathering planned for Frank, but he died before he could participate. Still, the gathering was held Saturday at his Olympia home and was attended by 150-200 people, Greg Travis said.

Frankie’s Sports Bar & Grill on Pacific Avenue opened in 1995. It came to prominence after the passage of the state’s smoking ban in 2005. Schnarrs, concerned about the impact of the new law on his business, first disregarded it, then opened a private club for smokers on the premises.

After the passage of Initiative 502 in 2011, which ushered in the state’s recreational marijuana business, Schnarrs believed that pot smokers could legally use the private club as well.

“Sixty percent of my customers already smoke (marijuana) in the parking lot before they come in here,” Schnarrs told The Olympian in 2012. “Nothing will change. Now it will be indoors.”

Schnarrs did not always win those battles with the state.

Last November, the state Liquor and Cannabis Board issued an emergency liquor license suspension for Frankie’s Sports Bar and Grill that would last six months. State officials said they would seek a permanent revocation. The business appeared closed Sunday.

Meanwhile, Schnarrs’ private smoking club, Friends of Frankie’s, which is upstairs from the Pacific Avenue bar, remains open.

Schnarrs also was a big supporter of the homeless, veterans and was adamant that his two businesses carry on, Travis said.