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Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Mayor Nickels V. Seattle Night Life Pt. 2

Posted by on November 2 at 14:08 PM

At Mayor Nickels’s press conference this morning, where he announced his “Good Neighbor Action Plan” to monitor problem clubs, I took the opportunity to ask him why the city had been cracking down on non-problem clubs w/ an extra layer of regulations known as “Community Good Neighbor Agreements” (CGNAs) that give the city excessive powers to crack down above and beyond the laws that are already in place.

Background: For months, the city has been claiming that there are drug problems at The Blue Moon Tavern in the U. District & demanding that the club owner sign a CGNA. The 32-point plan includes stuff like what neighborhood associations the club has to join. The city won’t sign off on the Blue Moon’s liquor license renewal unless the club signs the “agreement.”

The city has, in fact, been getting away with this bullying act with clubs all over the town, making brand new clubs that hadn’t even opened yet (like Fremont’s Brower’s) sign the “agreement” even though, obviously, there is no history of problems.

There’s no history of problems at The Blue Moon either. The club has had 2 liquor violations in the past 23 years and none in the last four years. The city also set up some pot “buy busts” there…(that’s where the SPD goes undercover)… and all four buy busts netted a total of one ounce of marijuana. (Hell, you could score a dime bag in one buy bust outside City Hall.)

Sooooo, the Blue Moon’s Club owner called the city’s bluff and refused to sign… making the city take its claims to an administrative hearing earlier this week… in front of a judge.

Of coures, at the hearing, the city’s case totally fell apart, with the SPD admitting there were no substantive neighborhood complaints against the club. The SPD even withdrew its evidence on the buy busts.

After outlining the city’s embarrassing attempt to coerce the Blue Moon, here’s what I asked the mayor this morning: “Why is the city demanding that law abiding clubs sign agreements that should be reserved for problem clubs?”

To answer the question, Nickels turned the mic over to SPD Chief Kerlikowske, who said the Blue Moon Tavern "did not call the police about problems involving drugs. People who had been 86'd from the club, those kinds of things..."

So, wait a minute: Was Police Chief Kerlikowske implying that the owner of the Blue Moon was condoning illegal activity??? (After the press conference I asked him if that's what he was insinuating, and he said, "Oh, no. You're not going to get me to say that." It seemed to me he'd already said it, but... I'm no lawyer.)

Anyway, Nickels took the mic again, and I asked my question again: "Why this extra set of regulations when there's already business licenses, tax rules, city code, liquor licenses..."

Here's Nickels's response: "One of the recommendations [in today's proposal] is that we begin to take a look at those liquor licenses and combine that with a look at the problems in and around those neighborhoods, so that if we start to see a spike in problems around the club or around the bar, we can be on top of it before it becomes a huge problem. We can work with the management and ownership of that establishment and try to solve it. So, we think taking a more comprehensive look at that will make sure we are dealing with places that really are a problem and not places that are not a problem. I want to hear from both the people who live there and work there about what they think can work to make this compatible for both a vibrant night life and for a neighborhood that is safe and healthy..."

I followed up: "Right. But the Community Good Neighbor Agreement isn't coming from the community. The 32 things the club has to sign off on are already in the agreement coming from the city. It's already in place and you're using it... So, I'm asking specifically about a Community Good Neighbor Agreement that has nothing to do with complaints from the community... Why is the city using that?"

Nickels: "Yeah, well the Chief has responded about this specific club and if you have more questions you should talk to the City Attorneys office."

After the press conference, Deputy Mayor Ceis came over to me and repeated Nickels's answer and passing the buck to the city attorney. I then showed Ceis an e-mail that City Attorney Carr had written back in February saying that Tim Ceis had signed off on the city plan to pursue the "Community Good Neigbhor Agreement" with the Blue Moon.

Despite this undeniable evidence that the mayor's office approved the CGNA strategy, Ceis continued to tell me that it was all the city attorney Tom Carr's doing.

It reminded me a bit of the Bushies. You've got hard and fast proof and they continue to deny and spin.