Fircrest will have a way to get rid of its Prohibition-era dry-city ordinance without jeopardizing the handful of businesses that already sell alcohol, under a bill that has passed the Legislature and awaits the governor’s signature.
But it won’t take the decision away from Fircrest voters and give it to the City Council, as the original legislation would have done.
“We are excited to have gotten this far,” said City Council member Hunter George, who helped push the bill.
The city of 6,500 people is the only one in Washington that still bans sales of alcohol by the glass. The state’s Liquor Act, enacted in 1934, allows cities to hold local votes on such sales. The last time Fircrest went to the ballot on the matter was 1975, when voters overwhelmingly decided to keep the ban in place.
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In the past few decades, however, Fircrest has annexed land into the city where food-and-drink establishments are allowed to sell alcohol, primarily in the Mildred Street commercial corridor. This has created an uneven business landscape that some City Council members want to address.
House Bill 1564, which passed the Senate on Wednesday after previously passing the House, would give Fircrest a clearer path toward legalizing alcohol sales citywide.
If it becomes law as expected, any territory annexed into a city after the passage of a liquor ban would not be subject to a ban ratified in a subsequent election.
That means if Fircrest were to have a public vote to consider overturning the dry-city ordinance, businesses that now serve alcohol would be protected from a possible “no” vote like the one that happened 40 years ago.
The House bill was drafted by Reps. Christine Kilduff, D-University Place, and Dick Muri, R-Steilacoom. On the Senate side, it was sponsored by Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place.
In its original form, it would have allowed the City Council to kill the 90-year-old ban without submitting it to voters.
George said after the governor signs the bill, citizens who don’t want Fircrest to be a dry city anymore can start the process of putting a measure on the ballot, perhaps this year.
The owner of the Spring Lake Cafe had enough signatures to force a public vote 10 years ago but didn't turn them in to the Pierce County auditor as required. He has said he would consider working on such an effort again.
George said the next steps for Fircrest leaders are to hold public hearings and consider zoning rules limiting the kinds of alcohol businesses that would be permitted — for example, banning bars and taverns and allowing only restaurants to serve drinks.