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WA: Washington’s last ‘dry’ town prepares to vote on alcohol

WA: Washington’s last ‘dry’ town prepares to vote on alcohol

Yakima Herald

By Erik Lacitis, The Seattle Times

October 30, 2015

FIRCREST — Ninety years of being “dry.” The last town in this state where you can’t buy liquor by the drink.

You want a mug of beer, a glass of chardonnay, buddy? You just keep going right on out of the city limits. Tacoma and all its bars are a minute away.

But modern mores have sneaked up on this bedroom community of 6,500.

If a proposition to allow sales of liquor by the glass passes in the Tuesday election, that remnant of the old Blue Laws will be gone in Washington state. (”Blue” most likely a reference to the disparaging 18th-century term for rigid morality, as in a “bluenose.”)

If you can’t sell liquor by the glass, it means no bars and no taverns, and less chance of a restaurant opening up.

“We’re stuck back in time,” says Matt Jolibois, an accountant and City Council member here, and a backer of the ballot measure.

Fircrest is the kind of place where another council member, Hunter George, calls his blog, “Life at 25 mph in charming Fircrest, Washington.”

He says it’s a reference to the town’s reputation as a speed trap.

George also supports the proposition.

As for voters, besides the 900-plus who signed the petition, here is another sign of how they feel:

For a while, the city couldn’t find anyone to write the “argument against” the liquor proposition in the voters’ pamphlet.

That certainly was a change from 40 years ago, when a similar measure was put before voters and rejected by more than 60 percent.

Explains Blake Surina, the town’s unofficial historian, about how folks felt back then: “This was a planned community with contoured streets. They didn’t want any kind of riffraff. They were making it into some kind of utopia. They had little vases and stands on every corner, just for decoration.”

If the liquor initiative passes, the most direct beneficiary will be the Spring Lake Cafe, run by Scott Clement.

Viafore’s, an Italian deli a few doors away, says it has no plans to sell liquor by the glass.

At a cafe a few blocks away, T.W.O., the owner says she would contemplate selling alcohol. On a recent evening, Jill Absten says she’s had zero customers for the past hour and a half.

“There’s no dinner crowd in Fircrest at all,” she says. “It’s kind of desperate times.”

Clement’s small, 12-table place in the center of Fircrest offers everything from the Home Town Breakfast ($7.95) to an Oktoberfest menu that includes such selections as Wiener schnitzel ($15.95). The latter was an influence of a Bavarian waitress at the cafe.

“Of course, what you want with German food is German beer,” says Clement.

Clement says that if the initiative passes, he wouldn’t stay open much past his current weekdays closing hour of 7 p.m.

But he wants an even playing field with restaurants a short distance away that aren’t affected by the ban.

“When I explain to customers that they can’t get a glass of wine or a beer, most people are shocked,” says Clement.

He’s 47 and grew up in the area, attending nearby Foss High School and working in his younger days washing dishes at the private Fircrest Golf Club, where the chef taught him the basics of cooking.

The golf club also is in the city, but it has always served liquor by the drink.

That’s because it was annexed in 1995, but only after a special state law allowed alcohol to be served within Fircrest annexations. Two other areas later annexed got the same deal.

It’s said that all politics is local.