The Enumclaw City Council is considering whether to allow public drinking in this Cole St. and Myrtle Ave. lot, which is currently used for just outside eating. Photo by Ray Miller-Still

The Enumclaw City Council is considering whether to allow public drinking in this Cole St. and Myrtle Ave. lot, which is currently used for just outside eating. Photo by Ray Miller-Still

Council ponders allowing alcohol in downtown area

To keep the downtown economy rolling, Enumclaw is considering what other cities have already enacted.

Talk of ice cream and alcohol highlighted the July 27 gathering of the Enumclaw City Council.

Those were, thankfully, independent items that occupied much of the 89 minutes dedicated to the session.

The notion of downtown drinking was part of a late-in-the-meeting discussion dubbed “all things COVID” by Mayor Jan Molinaro.

Simply put, the city is considering relaxing its rules about carrying and consuming beer and wine in public. It is viewed as a temporary measure, one way to stimulate sales for establishments in the vicinity of Cole Street.

The discussion was kicked off by Molinaro, who asked the council for proposals to boost the local economy – anything they might be worth considering.

The conversation was then steered by Councilman Anthony Wright who noted that several downtown businesses benefit from the tents and tables put in place (and paid for) by the city. But other establishments are not helped by the effort, he said, and are in locations that make tents impossible.

Wright noted how other cities have made areas available where beer and wine can be legally consumed and suggested that Enumclaw might do the same. The city has leased an empty lot at the corner of Cole and Myrtle Avenue and provided a tent, tables and chairs, he said, but the property is posted with no-alcohol advisories.

“We’ve invested a lot of time and money in that gravel lot, but (it) isn’t being utilized as much as it could be,” he said, due to ban on alcohol.

Wright detailed the possibility of the city establishing an area in which customers could purchase a bottle of wine or growler of beer, then stroll to a picnic table, open their purchase and enjoy their beverage.

It would create a comfort zone, Wright said, where “you don’t have to worry about someone coming and giving you a ticket” for consuming alcohol in public.

He was careful to note that beverages would be limited to those purchased from a restaurant, winery, distillery or brewery. The goal would be to help those most impacted by the ongoing pandemic while not promoting random, public drinking.

“I’m trying to figure a way to maximize the work we’ve already done,” he said, “and how we can help the businesses that don’t have the benefit of access to tables or chairs.”

Wright’s said his thought is “not encouraging someone to go to a mini-mart or grocery store, buy a six-pack and basically get blasted in public.” If public consumption were allowed, then proved problematic, the council could easily reverse its decision, he said.

Fellow Councilman Chance La Fleur supported the idea, as long as it was limited to beer and wine. And Councilman Beau Chevassus called it a “brilliantly innovative idea” while chiming in with his support.

”It seems kind of silly to set up these tents, say ‘enjoy the great outdoors, be responsible and, by the way, you can’t enjoy an ice-cold IPA.’ It seems a little weird,” Chevassus said.

Councilman Kyle Jacobson agreed in principle, but took the issue a bit further. He supported allowing mixed drinks as well, basically opening the public spaces to anything sold in a licensed establishment.

La Fleur countered that “it would give me a little heartburn having hard alcohol in public.” The more-potent concoctions “seem to elevate the level of potential issues,” he said.

Councilman Hoke Overland also agreed with the idea, noting “desperate times call for desperate measures.” But he, too, was inclined to support the wine-and-beer-only approach.

Looking for legal advice, the council turned to City Attorney Mike Reynolds. He quickly noted it’s the Washington State Liquor Control Board that maintains jurisdiction over such issues.

By consensus, the council agreed to move forward with the plan, checking first with the LCB and the city’s insurance carrier (for potential liability issues). It was suggested by La Fleur that the city consider a zone bordered by First Street on the east, Porter Street on the west, Monroe Avenue on the south and Marshall Avenue on the north.

Also on the topic of “all things COVID” the council extended a lease agreement for the tents, tables and chairs placed strategically through downtown – while adding two additional sites.

All are geared toward economic enhancement for businesses in the downtown core. The funds to pay for the leased equipment has been handed to the city by the federal government as part of the CARES program.

New tents will be added adjacent to Headworks Brewery (with permission of a neighboring property owner) and Bordeaux Wine Bar. Both tents will be 10 feet by 40 feet in size.

The council agreed to allocate $18,164, plus state sales tax, for the outdoor seating program. That money will extend the current lease agreements through the end of September, while adding amenities for the two new sites.

ABOUT THE ICE CREAM

Years ago, the city heard complaints about mobile ice cream vendors patrolling city streets with the unmistakable jingle of music blasted from on-board speakers.

So, the City Council at the time drafted rules allowing vendors to hawk their frozen treats just six days a week. Now, that decades-old prohibition against Sunday sales has outlawed ice cream vendors from participating in Sundays On Cole, an enterprise that effectively turns downtown Enumclaw into an open-air market.

The council not only overturned the ban on Sunday sales, but took two additional steps. First, the ordinance was passed immediately, rather than waiting the traditional two weeks; also, sales were expanded to residential areas and the Expo Center, not just the business district.

There was concern expressed about early-morning noise, but the approved ordinance allows sales from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

A FEW OTHER ITEMS

In other items on the July 27 agenda, members of the City Council:

• Listened as Molinaro read a proclamation celebrating the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That amendment assured American women the right to vote.

It was a long time coming, as the women’s suffrage movement traces its roots to an 1848 convention in Seneca Falls, New York. It wasn’t until 1919 that both houses of Congress passed the amendment, which still needed ratification. That occurred in 1920 when Tennessee gave its approval, making it the 36th state to ratify and thus making it the law of the land. In March of that year, Washington had been state No. 35 to ratify.

• Were told the city has again received the WellCity Award, presented by the Association of Washington Cities.

There is a dollars-and-cents value to the designation, as the city qualifies for a 2 percent discount on its insurance premiums through AWC. For 2020, that amounts to $25,266, City Clerk Maureen Burwell reported.

Enumclaw has received the WellCity Award a dozen times in the past 13 years, missing out only in 2010.

• Were reminded that Sundays On Cole will continue on Aug. 9, 16 and 23. Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on those Sundays.


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