The City of Fircrest would be able to lift its 90-year-old ban on liquor sales by the glass without taking a public vote, under a pair of bills proposed in the state Legislature.
Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place, has submitted Senate Bill 5167, which would give the Fircrest City Council the authority to overturn its Prohibition-era blue law. Reps. Christine Kilduff, D-University Place, and Dick Muri, R-Steilacoom, have drafted House Bill 1564, a companion bill.
“This is a statutory change that would only affect Fircrest and wouldn’t have implications on other areas,” O’Ban said in a phone interview.
That’s because Fircrest is the only city in Washington that enforces a ban on alcohol sales by the glass, according to the state Liquor Control Board.
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O’Ban thinks the bill could pass this session without opposition. It would change a state law that says a public vote is needed to overturn a liquor ban. Instead, an elected body would be able to lift the ban as long as it waits at least two years after the public vote that enacted the ban.
If Fircrest voters disagree, they could try to reinstate the ban through a ballot measure.
Leaders in the city of 6,500 people approached O’Ban last year asking for help with their liquor conundrum.
The ban applies to some Fircrest businesses but not others. A 1994 state law, created specifically for Fircrest, allows alcohol sales only in annexed parts of the city.
The City Council has been hesitant to try lifting the ban through a public vote because if voters uphold it, all businesses would be affected. That means the eight businesses now selling alcohol by the glass in the Mildred Street commercial corridor would have to stop.
Fircrest voters overwhelmingly affirmed support for the ban in 1975, the last time it was on the ballot.
Councilman Hunter George said the city is now asking the Legislature for help because “we were trying to find a way to do no harm to existing businesses, as well as offer opportunities to other businesses.”
The City Council resurrected the liquor debate last spring after hearing from some residents who want to be able to buy a drink while dining at Fircrest restaurants.
That sentiment was affirmed at a public hearing, prompting the council to direct City Manager Rick Rosenbladt to work with state legislators.
The council also tasked its planning commission to look at changing city code to allow alcohol sales by the glass. The commission will take up that discussion in the next six months, Rosenbladt said.
If state lawmakers approve the legislation this year, the Fircrest council won’t immediately take action, George said. It first wants to gauge the public’s support for lifting the ban, he said.
“If citizens don’t like it, they could turn around and petition to put (a ban) on the ballot and then that affects everyone,” he said. “We will work carefully with the community and make sure everybody is heard.”