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Residents, biz owner try to stop brewery from opening in Kirkland | Update

Update: The objection to Chainline Brewing Company's applications for a liquor license has been dropped, according to blog post written by co-owner Scott Holm on the microbrewery's website.

A parent's group and some Kirkland residents are attempting to prevent a local micobrewery from obtaining a liquor license and opening later this year. The microbrewery has secured a lease at 503 6th St. S., located near the Google campus. Letters to both the city of Kirkland and the Reporter claim the microbrewery is inappropriately placed because it is also located near a ballet studio and kickboxing club geared toward youth.

Although the opposition points towards limited parking space as another issue, their main contention is that a microbrewery would result in drunk driving as the patrons leave the establishment.

“Obtaining a liquor license [implies] that alcohol will be consumed on the premises,” one parent of ballet dancers wrote. “Therefore, many of the patrons of the brewery will be driving under the influence. This creates an avoidable risk to all students entering and leaving this facility.”

Another person wrote, “Many of us business owners have been in the complex on average 10-20 years, we have built our business from scratch and have seen students come and our programs grow. Then, to allow a new business coming in serving alcohol right next to where children are attending classes, is simply outrageous.”

The city of Kirkland received more than a half a dozen letters in protest to the business and nearly two dozen in support, many from Everest neighborhood residents. One person concerned about the impact of the brewery is Cristina Hume, a co-owner of AMC Martial Arts, which would share the same parking lot with the new business.

“If you had a child/grandchild taking a ballet, music, or martial arts class at the complex and God forbid, someone leaving the microbrewery was slightly intoxicated and failed to see a child walking in the parking lot, how incredibly devastating [would that] be?” she wrote. “As a concerned parent who has a young daughter attending the ballet academy and as a nearby Kirkland business owner, it seems extremely reckless to allow a business serving alcohol to open in this location. Surely, there are other locations where a microbrewery in Kirkland would be more appropriate. Next door to facilities serving youth on the Eastside does not seem quite the right fit.”

On July 31, the Chainline Brewing’s owner, Scott and Michelle Holm, received a letter from the Washington State Liquor Control Board stating that due to the public protest they would need to submit a statement outlining why their license should be approved before they could be issued a liquor license.

Scott Holm said he has tried to reach out to the concerned individuals. After he heard of complaints to the city about the microbrewery opening, he wrote a letter addressing the concerns and distributed it outside establishments.

“It was a bit of a surprise when things went from zero to full speed,” he said.

Scott Holm said much of the neighbors’ apprehension stems from a misconception about microbreweries.

“We’re a family friendly tasting room,” he said. “People are pretty familiar with that. That kind of culture carries over pretty well. It’s for responsible folk who like to come in and sample and buy to take home. It’s generally a pretty reserved crowd, pretty social but not the type they were describing.”

A flurry of emails obtained by the Reporter after a public information request, including from microbrewery owners in adjacent cities expressing support for Chainline Brewing, were received by the city in response to a July 25 blog post by Scott Holm requesting that their supporters make their voices heard.

“This isn’t the Prohibition era anymore,” one person wrote to the city. “It’s laughable to think of children being “scandalized” by happening to see the outside of a mircobrewery on their way to ballet classes.”

The Kirkland Chamber of Commerce has also expressed support for the microbrewery.

According to city of Kirkland Planning Director Eric Shields, Chainline Brewing is currently completing an application for a tenant improvement permit, which is required before it will be allowed to open.

The protest emails were also sent to City Council members such as Toby Nixon, who explained in an internal email that the council has no say in the matter.

In an email to Kurt Triplett and Eric Shields, Nixon also wrote that the zoning issue creates a predicament, as there are other establishments in Kirkland that serve liquor which are also located next to businesses that cater to kids.

“My gut feel is that this same thing could happen all over the city in retail shopping centers, etc,” he wrote. “Is it up to us to enforce some kind of separation, everywhere?”

Deputy Mayor Penny Sweet, who owns The Grape Choice, a wine tasting shop near Marina Park, told the Reporter that she has never had any trouble with children, and in fact, mothers tend to bring their kids with them into the shop. She described her business as “very kid friendly.”

“I think we have to compare it a bit with marijuana,” she said. “It’s all about fear. It’s about people wanting to control the environment around their children. I guess I don’t fault anybody for that, but at the same time I think we have to build a community in a way that works for everybody, or as many as we can, and hopefully we will dispel these concerns that these dance student parents have.”

Meanwhile, Scott Holm said that the protest so far has not impacted their plans to open later this year and the support he’s received has been encouraging.

“It has been just amazing, and really heartwarming, because when this came up we were a bit surprised and dejected,” he said. “We feel more welcome now than we ever have, small group aside. We’re very excited to get this passed and behind us and moving forward.”

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