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Harborside waits for hearing

The result of Monday night’s City Council meeting, where public input was sought regarding the Harborside Bar & Grill’s pending liquor license, left some citizens confused and uncertain.

After hearing multiple arguments both for and against the Harborside’s request to the Washington State Liquor Control Board for a permanent liquor license, the Council fell silent and took no action.

Unbeknownst to some at the meeting, there wasn’t much action to take.

Directly before hearing testimony from residents regarding the Harborside, the Council went into a five-minute executive session, as Councilmember Rita DiIenno requested to share privileged information she had recently obtained relevant to the hearing that was about the commence.

After the Council returned, City Attorney Loren Combs publicly explained the City had no power to make any significant decision regarding the pending license. At best, Combs said, the City could provide the Liquor Control Board with a recommendation it take similar public input before making a decision.

However, no such motion was introduced.

After over an hour of testimony from both sides and before a crowd of almost one hundred, the Council sat in silence and the meeting moved on.

Scott Hlinka, owner of the Harborside Bar&Grill said Thursday morning he was still confused about the anticlimactic end to the hearing.

“Since Monday, I’ve just been completely confused with everything that’s happened.”

When asked whether he believed he was mislead in the process, Hlinka replied with an emphatic “yes.”

“(The Council) knew (it could take no action) beforehand,” said Scott Hlinka, owner of the Harborside Bar&Grill. “The rules weren’t made the night of the meeting.”

Hlinka said he didn’t understand why the testimony had been presented at all and that he thought something could be accomplished as a result.

“It really boils down to the fact that they simply do not want us personally.” Hlinka said. “It’s Scott Hlinka and the Harborside. In a really roundabout way they were saying, ‘just not you, just not that.’”

“The Council can always listen to what its citizens have to say,” Combs said. “The way the State statue is drafted, the Mayor is the one that writes the opinion to the Liquor Control Board with regards to a recommendation whether a license should or shouldn’t be granted.”

Combs explained that the Council cannot force Mayor Kim Abel to act one way or the other, but they can allow input at a meeting Abel attends, as was the case Monday night.

According to Abel, her recommendation to the Liquor Control Board against a permanent liquor license for the Harborside stands.

Sharon Michael, public information officer for the Washington State Liquor Control Board, said the Board meets every Wednesday, but the Harborside case is still being investigated.

Michael said Harborside’s request will probably not go before the board until Wednesday, August 25, at the earliest.

“Usually the Board decides in favor of the local government,” Michael added.

However, Michael did explain there was an appeal process where the case is heard at the state level before a superior court judge.

Despite multiple attempts to arrange a meeting with Abel, Hlinka said he is forced to wait for the decision from the Liquor Control Board.

Hlinka said he didn’t currently have plans to appeal a possible denial of his license.

“I guess I’d have to be denied first,” Hlinka said. “Anything’s possible,” Hlinka said. “I don’t know what the future holds.”

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