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Vocal Minority Threatens to Shut Down Kirkland Brewery

UPDATED 8/7/2014: Although the Liquor Control Board received a lot more letters in favor than it did in opposition, by a factor of about 10:1,  they are still going to investigate the matter before issuing the license. We assume the LCB will find no reason to stop Chainline Brewing from opening.

UPDATED 8/1/2014: Chainline Brewing is asking for your help. Please write a letter in the form of an email supporting the brewery and send it to the Liquor Control Board agent who is considering this matter. The LCB has received at least 17 letters that oppose the brewery’s opening. We need to counter that by showing our support. Be brief, be kind, be polite, and tell them that you support this brewery opening at this location in Kirkland. Click here to send an email to: ashley.honeywell  AT  lcb.wa.gov

ORIGINAL STORY:

A new brewery is trying to open in Kirkland, Washington. Jumping through the usual regulatory hoops is challenging enough, but Chainline Brewing finds itself facing an even more formidable obstacle: a very loud, very small group of citizens determined to stop the brewery dead in its tracks. Chainline Brewing needs your help. Especially those of you who live in Kirkland. You need to make your opinions heard.

According to Chainline Brewing’s blog: “It has recently come to our attention that a small but extremely vocal group in our local community has taken it upon themselves to oppose our little brewery and are actively flooding the inboxes of the Kirkland City Council with negative comments. While we believe everyone is entitled to their opinion, in this case the opposition seems to come out of misinformation and fear rather than having any basis in fact…”

To learn more about the opposition, see the bottom of this post.

Chainline Brewing is in the process of bringing its business plan and its dream to life. This new brewery is (or will be) located in the burgeoning Cross-Kirkland Corridor. It’s a perfect spot for a brewery: not too far from downtown, not in a neighborhood but within easy and safe walking distance of neighborhoods, in a light-industrial part of town surrounded by businesses of every flavor, including a nearby Google campus. In short, Chainline Brewing picked a great location for a brewery.

Along with his wife, Scott Holm owns Chainline Brewing. He tell me that the Kirkland City Council has been a strong proponent of the brewery in the face of the barrage of emails coming from this misinformed group of errantly concerned citizens. He’s thankful for the city’s support.

“The City has been one of our strongest supporters so far, and has assured us there is not much they [the group] can do,” Scott told me. “But I’m a bit worried as I was recently informed that this group has lawyered-up and are working on a suit.  Against who, I’m not quite sure – the City, us, both.”

“We are just a small-time deal, it’s my wife and I, and our mortgaged–to-the-hilt house, trying to get this thing going. We can’t compete with all the money and entitlement on the Eastside and I suspect they know it.  Even if baseless, a protracted legal engagement kills us either way. “

It’s the Principle, if Nothing Else

Scott fears that this group is gearing up to wage a legal battle that will effectively destroy his dream of owning and operating a perfectly legal business. Not because the opposition has a case they can win, but because they have the financial means to wage the battle and they know that Chainline Brewing cannot afford to defend itself. Although the case will likely be baseless, there are plenty of attorneys out there willing to take the group’s money and use it to crush this small business.

Seriously, brewery or not, how does that make you feel?

I can only imagine who, or what kind of conviction, is actually behind this anti-brewery movement. I will not speculate. I will just point out that these people do not have the right to enforce their will on a local business that plans to operate legally and contribute to the local economy as well as the local community.

If I lived in Kirkland, I would grab a pitchfork and a torch and go hunt these people down. I’m speaking figuratively, of course. In reality, you should reach out to Chainline Brewing and ask how you can help. Contacting the Kirkland City Council (info below) is also a good idea.

Breweries have a right to exist. This is America, after all.

Breweries and Communities

Here are some things this misguided minority group does not know. I would guess that they probably do know these things, but don’t care. They have an agenda and facts like this only muddle their myopic march toward self-serving injustice.

In Washington, craft beer is a $1 billion industry. That’s how much money craft beer contributes to the Washington economy annually.  Our local breweries employ more than 13,000 people. By definition, all of Washington’s 200+ craft breweries are privately held entities that qualify as small businesses.

Go to just about any community with a brewery and you’ll find a brewery that supports the community. Boundary Bay Brewing was recently honored as Washington’s Outstanding Philanthropic Small Business. That’s a fact. Visit West Seattle and ask local non-profit organizations and public schools about the support they receive from Elliott Bay Brewery & Pub. People will gush in appreciation for all they do to support the community. Georgetown Brewing has donated more than $400k to Ronald McDonald House Charities. The list goes on.

What have you done?

Maybe this vociferous group of misguided individuals should point their attention, their efforts, their lawyers, and their financial wherewithal towards helping and supporting the local community.

Chainline Brewing on Facebook.

Chainline Brewing on the Web.

Contact Chainline Brewing.

Kirkland City Council Contacts

Speak in your own words. Tell them why you want a brewery in your neighborhood. Thank them for continuing to support Chainline Brewing.

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

The Nature of the Opposition

The following are some excepts from a “letter to the editor” that appeared on the Kirkland Reporter’s website. You can see this letter in its entirety on that website. I encourage you to do so as I do not want to be accused of taking this out of context.

“It is very disheartening and extremely concerning to see a microbrewery being allowed to open next door to a ballet academy, a children’s music academy, as well as a martial arts gym and a cross-fit gym – in a complex located on 6th Street South…”

“Then, to allow a new business coming in serving alcohol right next to where children are attending classes, is simply outrageous…”

“I’m sure many residents nearby are parents of (some) young children, and possibly have grandchildren. I implore you to please think about the ramifications of having a microbrewery at this particular location….”

“As a concerned parent who has a young daughter attending the ballet academy and as a nearby Kirkland business owner, it seems extremely reckless to allow a business serving alcohol to open in this location. Surely, there are other locations where a microbrewery in Kirkland would be more appropriate. Next door to facilities serving youth on the Eastside does not seem quite the right fit…”

Again, I encourage you to see this letter in its entirety.

Furthermore, we have received a copy of a letter that was sent to the entire Kirkland City Council, as well as some other recipients. We share the letter below in its entirety, but withhold the name of the person who wrote it. (See aforementioned note about pitchforks and torches.)

Dear City of Kirkland,

This letter is regarding the Chainline Brewing Company microbrewery liquor and business license application for 503 6th Street S, Kirkland, WA 98033.

I am a concerned parent of a dancer at the International Ballet Academy (IBA) located next door to the proposed microbrewery, and writing this letter in objection to the above-mentioned business being able to be licensed for alcohol and located at the address above.

IBA is a premier dance academy which attracts students from the entire Eastside and the greater Seattle area. The Academy feeds into the International Ballet Theatre, which performs 4-5 productions each year at the Meydenbauer Center and will also perform at the Kirkland Performance Center.

The IBA is situated in a building complex which houses a number of other youth-oriented activities. Located next to the IBA is the Kirkland Music Academy which is busy during the same hours. Also in the complex is the AMC Kickboxing gym, busy during the same hours – afternoon and into the evening. The IBA has a constant flow of young children and youth. The company operates six days a week. During productions it is open seven days a week for rehearsals. Many of the dancers practice 6-9 hours a day not leaving the studio until well after dark. Next door to the IBA is the Kirkland Music Academy which also has a continual flow of young children and youth. Finally, at the end of the business complex is a gym also attracting many young students. These students are often in the parking lot working out, running the entire length of the lot, or performing various crossfit activities outdoors.

The sale and consumption of alcohol on the premises will lead to increased risk to the children at the International Ballet Academy, Kirkland Music Academy, and AMC gym due to poor driving and impaired judgment of those consuming alcohol.

Our objections are:

1. There is insufficient parking for the retail use planned. The parking lot at this business complex is extremely congested during our busy hours of 3:30-9:30p. Traffic down 6th parking lot which has only two entrances and is already often full to capacity with the current business. In addition to the traffic impact of this type of business, many parents are already forced to drop their students off near the entrance which leaves the children to navigate their way to the appropriate facility through congested parking lot. Because this complex targets children/youth activities, most parents entering the parking lot know to be extremely cautious.

2. The addition of a brewery and the customers it would attract creates unnecessary risk to our children in the parking lot. Obtaining a liquor license infers that alcohol will be consumed on the premise. Therefore, many of the patrons of the brewery will be driving drunk or under the influence. This creates an avoidable risk to all students entering and leaving this facility.

3. I am also concerned about the consumption of alcohol near our youth. In addition to intoxication around our children being inappropriate, many of the girls dance 6-9 hours a day. The girls often take breaks on the front patio, just steps from the brewery, and walk to and from their cars before and after dance classes. These are girls becoming shapely young women in form fitting leotards and tights. Alcohol added to this equation creates a huge risk to these young women. One of the great attractions of the International Ballet Academy is that present feeling of safety and security. The brewery creates a huge safety issue with adult males that are either drunk or under the influence.

Finally, it is our understanding that the business park where the Chainline Brewery is located is zoned industrial. We do understand that a microbrewery may fall into this category, however, this area is not designated for a tavern. How is a “tasting room” different from any establishment that serves hard alcohol?

The International Ballet Academy provides beautiful art to Kirkland and the Eastside and is a huge asset to the community, attracting dancers and their families that feed our local economy from as far away as Tacoma and from Seattle proper, every night.

I know the Kirkland City Council supports youth. I hope you will carefully reconsider your approval of this location. We are also approaching the liquor control board and objecting to the license. To you, City of Kirkland, we object to the approval of this location for this purpose. Thank you for helping to keep the City of Kirkland safe for our youth and our families.

And in conclusion. Below is a letter from the owners of Chainline Brewing, which they made available to parents of children attending the ballet and kickboxing gym:

My wife and I are opening Chainline Brewing Company, and we’ve become aware that some people have concerns.

We want to assure you that we are aware of your concerns and we are happy to address them with you. Here are a few facts that we hope will put you at ease:

– We are not a pub, tavern, or raucous bar. We are a craft brewery with a tasting room. Think of it like a winery (like in Woodinville), where you can taste the wines in a relaxing setting. We are the same, but with craft beer brewed in micro-batches.

– We are a family friendly brewery. We have a new baby of our own and our tasting room will allow children to accompany their parents, just like the wineries and many other craft beer tasting-rooms do around the area. We do not condone nor will we allow intoxicated patrons.

-The front half of our building will be devoted to our beautiful copper and stainless brewing equipment, and that is all that will be visible from the windows that face the front entry. Our tasting room will be in the rear of the building, with deck seating that faces the bike-path out back. You need not worry that people will be sitting out front or in the windows.

– We are a bicycle-themed brewery and will be encouraging people to come by means other than a car. We want people to enjoy and use the brand new Cross Kirkland Corridor that runs behind the building to access the brewery.

My wife and I are Kirkland residents ourselves and live in the surrounding neighborhood. My wife is an Emergency physician, and I recently left my career in prosthetics to pursue my passion of Craft Brewing. Our son Cade was born 6 months ago in January. We hope that after getting to know us and understanding the business we will be opening, that you will no longer have concerns.

Please feel free to contact us directly if you have more questions or concerns.



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32 comments

  1. It’d be nice to know what the facts are… like what is the opposition, what are they stating? This article is senseless without it. I love craft brewing but am not going to blindly support just because it’s an industry I love. Just as I wouldn’t blindly oppose.

  2. I have asked these questions and will report when I get answers. I have my theories based on the location, but I do not want to speculate.

  3. Reporting what I know thus far. I agree with Jim and Dan, details are good, but my speculation would be bad. I’m not sure these people want to be known, but am working to find out details about their objections.

    It is refreshing and encouraging to know that some people cannot imagine, or construe, a possible reason for opposing a brewery.

  4. Hi Kendall – Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention. Please post again on FB once you get more information. I’m a Kirkland resident and I would love to have a small brewery so close to downtown, just like I appreciate Hi-Fi and Back Raven in Redmond.

  5. THanks for digging in more, Kendall. Let us know the oppositions points, and if they are as mindless as I imagine, I’m happy to share.

  6. Oh come on. Existing next to a kids ballet studio is a non-reason to oppose a craft brewery. Guess who is our neighbor at my family’s Oregon City beer distributorship? That’s right, a children’s dance studio. It’s a non-issue, there are no problems.

  7. I must draw everyone’s attention to Objection #3 in the letter sent to the City Council.

    I am deeply offended by the insinuation. You, sir or madam, have a very sick mind.

  8. I would be more concerned that children are required to dance 6-9 hours a day vs.the chance that they might see someone drinking a beer.

  9. Kendall,

    Thanks for the update. You are correct that insinuation #3 in that letter is one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever read in my life. That’s just pathetic.

    The rest of the complaints are absurd. If anything a brewery will bring more people to this “kid centered” area and allow the businesses around them to grow. How about getting father’s involved in their Children’s ballet as they can get a beer after celebrating a fantastic performance, or wait in the brewery during practice.

    Stopping one particular business because they anticipate it bringing too many people too an area is ridiculous. The parking issues can be rectified. And I even have my doubts on them.

  10. I find the objections listed in the synopsis to be similar to some we encountered in opening our brewery.
    We also are family friendly and dog friendly so making this absolutely clear will get a lot of good folks on your side.
    The best avenue to get past this is at public meetings. Take someone along to take notes and even better record the interaction. If you’ve received full license approvals then the city should be hard pressed to revoke.
    When is there a public meeting?

  11. I hope the brewery happens and would be hugely disappointed if it derails due to this. The sense of entitlement and condemnation in the letter to the City, especially in objection #3, is insulting. Craft brewing is every bit the art form and community asset that the author claims ballet to be.

  12. I’m sure that Weight Watchers doesn’t appreciate that a donut shop always seems to go in next to their offices either. I think people in Kirkland are just snobby by nature and are constantly trying to stick their nose where it doesn’t belong! I also agree that the real issue is 6-9 hours? What? My daughter didn’t even ride horses that much! By the way, I live in Kirkland-and wish people would mind their own business but today that seems near impossible. I for one would gladly support this brewery/tasting room!

  13. Both Elliot Bay Brewing on Lake City Way and Wedgwood Alehouse in Wedgwood are right next store to dance studios. I wonder what their experiences have been.

  14. Breweries and tasting rooms, especially micro ones, are meant to be a way for people to come together and be with like-minded people from those neighborhoods. Being from the “beer world” all I am hearing from this letter to the editor is hate and rejection based on preconceived notions regarding this industry. It is nice to see such a supportive outpouring for the brewery and to see how many people have already extended their professional support in making such this “professional victim” doesn’t create more of a headache for this family-owned business.

  15. Wow, just wow. Thanks for writing this Kendall and as someone who likes a good bike ride to enjoy a good beer, I hope your story helps bring out supporters of Chainline. If the folks opposing Chainline really do file to stop the brewery, I hope there’s some legal folks who like beer, bicycles and the right to open a legal, well thought out business that would be willing to do some pro bono work for a brewery I’m looking forward to riding my bike to.

  16. We actually had the opposite occur. A dance/theatre studio for children moved in next door two years ago. I can assure you that no child has been harmed but I sure have had to listen to a lot of musicals! Maybe I should write a letter…

  17. As far as I’m concerned perhaps Kirkland doesn’t deserve a brew pub. I used to work in Kirkland and I live in Renton. Scott could probably open a brewery at the Renton landing and get a lot of attention and traffic without any of the crap up there.

    Come on down, leave the whine and cheese folks to their own pathetic little problems, us folks a few miles south would actually appreciate the value added to the community.

  18. Not mentioned by the owner of the martial arts business in her letter to the community is that for years her patrons have used the entire length of the business park’s parking lot as a place to pull training sledges with weights for resistance running training. That use affects the other businesses’ employees and patrons when they are trying to drive in the parking lot. I would imagine some increased vehicle traffic for Chainline could cut into this part of the gym’s accustomed use and training routines, and the landlord will side with the other non-gym tenants if a dispute ever comes to them. The heck with NIMBY’s and their red herrings! Can’t wait to drive/ride/walk to Kirkland’s microbrewery!

  19. As far as the safety of the children is concerned, the microbrewery will probably help. More people will be in the industrial complex later in the evening and that usually keeps the weirdos out. Brewpubs and microbreweries tend to make a neighborhood safer, imo.

    Also, where are they supposed to put a brewery in Kirkland? An industrial park is really the best place to put it. If anything, the ballet company should move.

  20. I’m a Kirkland resident, and I can assure you that many in the community will support Chainline – if this even turns into a “fight”.
    Hopefully the opposition will see how friendly and good neighbors craft brewers are elsewhere, so this turn out to be a “non-issue”.

  21. I attempted to comment on the letter.

    Essentially this is a bunch of hypocrisy, if this opposition has ever taken their kids to a restaurant with an adjoining bar.

    I don’t live in Kirkland, but I can tell you that claiming kids will suffer is flawed logic.

    Just let the man open his brewery.

  22. Hah, we have a ballet studio in our complex about 100 yards away. There’s a weekly rush of Ballet Dads who drop their daughters off for class, come have a pint, and share a root beer with their daughters after class. It’s kinda sweet actually. And we get the same thing with soccer practices after school across the street. Allowing kids into brewery tasting rooms is one of the best things Washington has done for its craft breweries.

  23. A few days ago we sent the following letter to the Kirkland City Council–

    Dear Mayor Walen and City Council,,

    It’s really hard to believe that a few folks would raise a stink over the possibility of a small craft (nano) brewery in an industrial area of Kirkland. Must be that these people don’t get out much!!

    We have no way of knowing just what the “ground rules” will be at the proposed Chainline, but the facts are that the entire concept of small breweries has gone through a major revolution in the last few years. For instance most micro-breweries are both kid and dog friendly. Nearby examples (of kid friendly) are Bellevue Brewing, 192 Brewing (Kenmore), Flycaster Brewing (Kirkland), and Geaux Brewing (Bellevue, near Lowe’s). Some of these family friendly places have kids play areas ((my favorite—Fremont Brewery) and family movie nights.

    It’s also important to point out that the local micro-breweries that we’re familiar with also have family friendly operating hours; that is they tend to be only open till 8 or 9 or 10pm (a good example here is the fantastic Black Raven Brewery in Redmond).

    To tell the truth my wife and I are insulted by the aspersions cast by the complainers. To imply that we (in our mid-70’s, or our friends) fit into the category of reckless and uncaring of our surroundings is uncalled for.

    A sad precedent would be set if a small vocal group got to exercise veto power over the establishment of a legitimate business in an appropriately zoned area.

    Sincerely,

    Jim and Carolyn Hitter

  24. The latest on Chainline’s facebook states that they are now protesting against their liquor license to the WA Liquor Control Board. They need letters of support sent in once again!

  25. Yes, I noticed on their facebook page that the liquor board received 17 letters of opposition. I just sent a letter to the liquor board in support of Chainline. If anyone else would like to do so, the email address of the investigator is: [email protected].

    Please email a letter of support to her if you are so inclined.

  26. Yes they have protested against us. Thank you everyone for the outpour of support. It is unfortunate this small group is reacting so unfortunately. We are so excited to pursue a dream of ours and this turd in the punch bowl will not stop us.

    Thank you john for giving out information about where this batch of letters is to go. I promise one amazing opening and definitely some sort of beer inspired by this.

    Feel free to shoot any questions my way
    [email protected]

  27. “It is very disheartening and extremely concerning to see a microbrewery being allowed to open next door to a ballet academy…”

    “I am a concerned parent of a dancer at the International Ballet Academy (IBA) located next door to the proposed microbrewery, and writing this letter in objection to the above-mentioned business being able to be licensed for alcohol and located at the address above.”

    All that Dance in Wedgwood seems to be doing just fine next door to Wedgwood Ale House, which happens to serve alcohol.

    Oh, wait! Dancesport International. Next door to Elliot Bay Brewing in the LCW. Shares a parking lot. Shares a building. Last time I was there, I didn’t see any pre-teens drinking beer, but I saw them with their beer drinking parents.

  28. We share a building and a parking lot in West Seattle with two other businesses, one of which is a martial arts studio attended by many young kids. In the two years we have been at this location there have not been any incidents whatsoever. We get long great with the owner and the patrons. We are also kid friendly/dog friendly and are rather confused as to the validity of any of the claims made by the opposition to Chainline.

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