Thursday, May 20, 2010

CITIZEN OPINION: Redmond Mayor sits on a 20-day Notice from the Washington State Liquor Board

OPINION: Updated, 6/1/2012:  As you travel on Redmond Way, just past Key Bank in the center of town, you'll see Redmond's new State liquor store - a beautiful, large brick building with high beam ceilings, built in the 1920's by Mayor Bill Brown. It's a city Landmark.

Passing the liquor store, you can't miss the loud, large red signs that stick out from all angles. Even Mayor John Marchione agreed during Tuesday's Council meeting saying the "sign is ugly". Mayor Marchione explained the signage by stating:
"Like any other developer, they pushed back the letter of the law without having to make any other expense."
I spoke 4 minutes to the Mayor and council about how upset I and some of my neighbors were with the signage and it's location in a city Landmark building.  It surprised me a State could relocate a liquor store and not give public notice or allow comment. Unbeknown-st to the public, John Redal, Dir. of Retail Operations, State Liquor Control Board said "Mayor John Marchione received a 20-day written notice on October 21, 2009 from the State Liquor Control Board." (click photo to enlarge the complete letter). The notice said:
"....This new store (on 16839 Redmond Way) is tentatively scheduled to open in January of 2010.... If you wish to comment on the proposed location, please notify us within 20 days from the date of this letter, along with a statement of your concerns."
At the council meeting (starting on minute 10), Mayor Marchione admitted: "I did receive a letter giving me 20 days about the location of the liquor store, only asking if it was a good site or not." The Mayor commented: "I did not respond because it's an appropriate use of the building".  The Mayor never called the Liquor Board to ask for signage considerations or ask for a location different from the 90 year old Landmark.

I asked John Redal if a call from Mayor Marchione would have made a difference. He said the Mayor never called but "because no lease was signed at the time of the letter" he could probably have given some consideration to a change in sign color.  Mr. Redal went onto say, "In hindsight, I wish I'd known because green colors on signs were a possibility."  I don't recall if Redal commented on options for number of signs, their size or design.

Mr. Redal said that one Contract Liquor store location "was changed due to community concerns with the location being too close to a school."  He went onto say, "As a responsible retailer we are, we would always consider the communities input, prior to the location being established, thus the reason for our notification process".

Mayor John Marchione summarized, in council chambers: "The History of Redmond is colorful because Mayor Brown DID own liquor stores and saloons. So, I actually find it kind of an inside joke that his garage became a liquor store. As Councilmember Myers says, it's the use that counts..."

Opinion By Bob Yoder
Photos by Yoder
6/1/12, Rev. for clarity.

Sources:  Redmond Council Meeting, 5/18  2010. (scroll to minute 10 to watch audience comments)  This meeting tape is in city archives.
Agency Policy #680  "Siting Liquor Stores"

Washington State Liquor Control Board   "achieving a 95% compliance record on sales to minors"

"Old is the New Green"  City of  Redmond campaign connects green house gases to historic preservation. 

Redmond Historical Society
"Redmond Reflections: from settlers to software", with over 800 images, by Naomi Hardy (click to order)


Anonymous said...

"I actually find it kind of an inside joke that his garage became a liquor store"

I'm not laughing.

This liquor store, signage or not, is a blight on downtown Redmond. Please don't tell me the same crowd will be overviewing the new park they intend to create nearby. We're probably going to get park benches for all the winos who frequent the liquor store.

Carla said...

I have to admit the signs are gawdy and completely inappropriate for the area. I am however glad to see that the building is being used. It was so sad to see it sitting there empty.

Just curious, is this liquor store replacing the one on 160th or in addition to?

Bob Yoder said...

My wife and I visited the liquor store tonight. Oddly, the light in the large street sign was turned off! I didn't seem to hurt the store traffic, though. What a difference, when they turned the glaring sign light back on! Ugh.

We noticed they turned the calming music off, so if felt more like the old liquor store and less like liquor & wine boutique. (Looks like I need to update the sidebar POLL.)

My wife noticed the wooden floors of the "Underhill" Landmark are now covered with synthetic materials that give the appearance of wood. Does this sound like historic preservation or "conservation of embodied energy?" (Ask for the city's "green historical preservation brochure" at the store).

We couldn't miss the extra space in the back of the merchandise showcases. According to Redal, the the Landmark is 6,789sf and the State only needed about 6,100sf, but the landlord wouldn't budge. So, now almost 700sf is underutilized. At $33/sf, you do the math.

I talked to an owner of a restaurant at Bella Bottega. (40% of the liquor store's revenue is generated by restaurants and bars.) He was concerned about the lack of parking. But, that's another story.

We found the City's "Old is the New Green" historical preservation brochure in the store. The Mayor, State, and Landlord seem to be using the Redmond Historical Society (RHS) to market the store. A liquor store supervisor even promoted their relationships with the RHS as an endorsement of the new store. She was ebullient about their $20,000 sales revenue for their 2nd day of business.

"Old is the New Green" a city campaign that tries to connect green house gases to historic preservation. Yep! The brochure link is found under the "City of Redmond" link at the top of this blog, if you're interested.

Question: If old is the new green, why didn't the Mayor request green signage when he had the chance? My guess, is John has so many other things to do that this one never made his punch list.

What do you think? If you want to try to be more credible, please comment with your name. Thanks!

Randi said...

Despite the signage, I think its the nicest liquor store I've ever been to

Anonymous said...

gee thanks for the heads up bobbo... since they moved from old location i havent had a slug of demon rum. and to think its just a drunks crawl from my bank, there is little chance i can lose all my booze money on lottery tickets before i get across the street. im going to check it out after breakfast this morning.. thanks again bobby

Anonymous said...

If Washington did not have such archaic liquor laws - you'd find liquor being sold at Fred Meyer, 7-11, and Costco - versus these "beautiful historic buildings". Perhaps more discussion on neighborhood blogs should be on whether the State should control alcohol sales and be operating a private business. It's an inefficient model that actually hurts, not helps tax revenue.

Bob Yoder said...

Good idea, and I welcome readers to write Letters on this topic! Currently, only 17 other "control states" and the D.C. operate like our state. I lived in New York and Florida for years, and everywhere you (and your kids)turned there was a bottle of vodka or bourbon in your face. Every 7/ll, convenience store, grocery store (!) had a rack of liquor on their shelves. Ugly.

Mr. AnonyTax, I encourage you to mail a Letter to all us neighborhood blogs and state your case. I for one, would welcome your opinion & facts.

family man said...

Must say, the state liquor signs are absolutely ugly for community and inconsistent with the historical nature of the building! Also provides evidence that the state is willing to market however necessary to sell (collect revenue) vs manage/control the product. Let Cosco and other sell and get the state out of this business!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure there is an "ideal" place to sell hard liquor. But, I'm pretty sure that placing it in an historic building in the center of Redmond - for which it appears improvements are being made - is not ideal.

Sharman Ghio said...

I visited your blog today and got upset all over again about the old Underhill’s store being used as a liquor store – what a shame! And the way they installed those horrific sliding doors and sign to such a beautiful and prominent building is horrible. I am so honored and proud to be conducting my business in a 1920’s building in downtown Redmond it’s too bad not everyone shares the same pride (and taste).

Brian Hansford said...

I am torn on this one. On one hand I am glad the building is being used and the updates the WSLCB did seem well done. On the other I don't like having a state run business occupying the historcial building. There's nothing to say a bar or restaraunt wouldn't have gone in with just as cheesy of a sign.

What bothers me more is Marchione's cavalier attitude towards permit reviews based on your excellent reporting. This attitude, which is shared by the perennial career councilmember Cole, are disturbing. Add this to the ridiculous "decision" to tear down the new Brown Office Building and I can't wait for the next election.

Great wwork on this story Bob. You are filling in a much needed chasm on critical reporting in Reporting.

-Brian Hansford
President - Zephyr 47, LLC

Doug Pratt said...

An alternative route to eliminate the sign is to eliminate the presence in the building by supporting Initiative 1100 and signing the petition to remove state control of liquor stores altogether!

Anonymous said...

People, let's not be hypocrites. Liquor sales bring HUGE revenue to the city and state and will find a way into many homes, regardless of where the store is located. What's wrong with a liquor store in an historic building? I agree the signs are hideous, and think that we all should petition the city to require some changes. And, there is NO excuse for the mayor sitting on this and missing the public comment period. Shame. But, please. get off the puritan line and just don't buy the stuff if you don't want it.

Elizabeth Hansford said...

Bob -

I was irritated when I learned that the liquor store would be moving into that historic building-first on principle, then on the money the state was using to remodel and lease the building given the state budget crisis. They could've chosen better in terms of better traffic patterns, increased parking, better neighborhood 'fit'.

But today, while sitting in traffic on my way to the liquor store, I remembered the comment by John Redal in your article that the location "was changed due to community concerns with the location being too close to a school." I'm guessing this refers to the Small Dimensions Daycare & Preschool which is located down the street from the previous location, indeed rather close. But apparently they don't do their community research very well as the new location is located 0.3-0.4 miles (depending on route) from Redmond Elementary, a public K-6 school with over 500 students. The previous location was about twice as far away (0.6-0.7 miles, all distances per Google Maps). Looks like I have some letter writing to do.


Bob Yoder said...

Hi Elizabeth - Whoa! I believe State law says a liquor store can't be any closer than ~2000 feet from a school. Mr. Redal was talking about relocating a different liquor store in a different city (not Redmond), because of proximity to a school.

Mr. Redal said: "As a responsible retailer we are, we would always consider the communities input, prior to the location being established, thus the reason for our notification process".

John Redal, Dir. of Retail Ops., WSCLB said...

Hi again Bob! I wanted to get back to you regarding your inquiry into changing the signs at the Redmond store.

Unfortunately, there would be a substantial cost to change out the signs. The only time available to change or choose the signs, would have been during the lease negotiation period; selecting a different type/color before the lease was finalized.

On a side note…I enjoyed watching your media file/stream, thanks for the compliment BTW!

If you have any other questions, please feel free to call. 360-664-4544

- John Redal, Director of Retail Operations, WSLCB