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The Curious Case of Booze in South Perry

This piece was contributed by RyanMP. Not to be confused with the many other Ryans connected to this blog.

I am not an investigative journalist. If I was, I might have tried harder to find out about the new business applying for a liquor license in my neighborhood, South Perry. Instead I did a little Google searching and waited for the information to fall into my lap.

About two weeks ago I noticed the distinctive neon paper posted in an empty store-front window about three blocks up from my house (the space most recently occupied by the Pop Shoppe and before that The Scoop). Around here, that means someone applied for a liquor license, in this case “The Lantern.” Just saying liquor so many times in just a few sentences makes me feel seedy and disreputable. I’m not, really, but I like to drink a beer or cocktail on occasion. I also like to support local businesses, and since one of the reasons we bought a house in the S Perry neighborhood was the proximity to a small business district, I would especially like to support those businesses. You have to understand the historic potential of a business opening on Perry that will sell liquor. Because the neighborhood is also home to an elementary school, no one has successfully been granted a liquor license as far as anyone can remember. According to RCW 66.24.010 any school or church within 500 feet of the business CAN veto an application for a liquor license. Spokane School District policy 9125 states that the district WILL deny any application for a business SERVING alcohol.

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See, part of the frustration of the succession of neighborhood cafes that have been denied a license is the presence of two convenience stores, one even across the street from the school. Both convenience stores SELL beer but they don’t SERVE it and therefore are not automatically vetoed by the school district. If you were a young teenager trying to buy beer where would you get it from? Would you walk into a bar and try to order a pint of a nut brown ale? Or would you find someone older but not wiser willing to procure a case of Nat Light from the closest gas station.

Whereas previously the 500 foot rule was measured from the property line, in 2006 the state liquor law was amended to change that definition to:

”...within five hundred feet of the premises of any tax-supported public elementary or secondary school measured along the most direct route over or across established public walks, streets, or other public passageway from the main entrance of the school to the nearest public entrance of the premises proposed for license.”

Door-to-door. The school district voted unanimously to revise their policy to reflect the change in the law. Although this change still excludes the majority of the small Perry businesses, the proposed location of The Lantern is apparently more than 500 feet from the entrance of the school. I’m guessing it isn’t much more than 500 feet, probably something like 519 feet, but it’s over 500 feet.

According to an article published in the Spokesman-Review today, the couple hoping to open The Lantern are new residents of both Spokane and the neighborhood, and hope to open an “upscale bar with primarily high quality Northwest beer and local wines.” Jeff Norvall was also quoted as saying, “it just looks like a good opportunity, I mean, there’s no competition at all.” I had to laugh when I read that – I wonder if he knows why.

But I agree with him. I think it could be a good business opportunity and I think it could be good for the neighborhood. We could use something in the neighborhood open after 7pm that is more than a place to buy smokes or a six-pack. Norvall and Laura Paisley (the co-applicant) are apparently hoping to open in the spring but are waiting for approval on the permit before moving ahead. Smart thinking, given the history of the neighborhood.

“We want to keep it classy, a good place for people to come and listen to acoustic music,” Norvall said. Uh, I’m not sure what type of renovations he’s planning for the bar, but the only acoustic music that will currently fit in that place might be a guy playing a harmonica or a solo a capella act. Musical acts aside, here’s to hoping that The Lantern opens this coming March to add a little night life to our burgeoning neighborhood.

Quotes liberally borrowed from this article..

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