It’s last call for alcohol at Harborside

Recent problems with operations at Harborside Bar & Grill that include alleged underage drinking, DUI arrests and what Police Chief Al Townsend describes as “general over-service of alcohol” may come to an abrupt and permanent halt this weekend as the establishment’s liquor license is set to expire at midnight tomorrow.

According to Bob Burdick, a spokesman from the Washington State Liquor Control Board, the second of two temporary operating permits issued to Scott and Crystal Hlinka, owners of the Harborside, expires at midnight Sunday.

Townsend, who has met with Hlinka at least three times since problems at the bar hit a peak June 25, said he and Mayor Kim Abel recommended to the liquor control board that the bar’s license not be renewed.

“The city has a great number of concerns regarding past practices and performances at the bar,” Townsend said. “When weighing the city’s pro-business stance versus our need to ensure public safety, public safety had the advantage.”

Although Hlinka has applied for a permanent liquor license, Townsend said he believed the recent event would negatively affect his ability to receive one, which the board confirmed.

“The local authority has raised an objection to this license, and this would slow (the process of getting a license) down,” Burdick said.

There was some confusion this week about when exactly the license expired, as liquor control board officials originally notified Townsend’s office that Hlinka’s permit expired Wednesday night.

“I wish it hadn’t gone through the weekend,” Townsend said, explaining that he feared a last hurrah could easily get out of hand. “My hope is that he truly wants to make a difference. This is his chance to show us.”

On Wednesday, Hlinka submitted his latest plan to control “the great deal of problems” Townsend said his officers have had with the bar over the last few months since Hlinka took over March 1.

Those problems include noise complaints, several alleged incidents of patrons being arrested for drunk driving and underage drinking, and repeated out-of-control behavior including fights and trespassing that Townsend said monopolizes his police force every weekend.

Last weekend, two men police believed to have been drinking at the bar were arrested, one for allegedly threatening a police officer, and another for trespassing.

Shortly after midnight on Tuesday, a trio of men who said they were drinking there were arrested, including a 20-year-old man who said he was allowed to drink although his ID was checked, and a 43-year-old man arrested for drunken driving.

Hlinka said he prepared a “game plan that will provide permanent solutions to the problems,” which includes hiring a consultant to monitor the bar on Friday and Saturday nights.

“His main job will be to keep an eye out for intoxicated patrons, and alerting the staff to cut those people off,” Hlinka said, explaining that will also stop serving alcohol at 1:15 a.m. on weekends, and beginning Tuesday night stopped serving at midnight on weeknights.

“We kicked out 25 people, which affects our income,” he said, adding that he feels he has been more than willing to cooperate, but that city officials “didn’t want us around.”

Although Hlinka said he still may be issued a permanent license, he conceded it would be “hard to get a license if we are not supported by the city.” He said on Thursday he planned to meet with Abel the next day to discuss the future of his business.

“I’m not trying to say we don’t have problems, but now we have a game plan to make sure they don’t happen again, and I’d like a fair opportunity to be successful,” he said, explaining that he currently has a five-year lease on the building.

Asked if he had been given a fair chance to be successful, Hlinka said “up until now.”

For now, Hlinka he is still striving to build “a long-term relationship with Port Orchard,” and has no plans to close the bar, which he said employs 20 people. But he admits not having a liquor license will significantly affect his profits. “Selling alcohol is 90 percent of our business,” he said.

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