The usually simple approval of a liquor license request turned into a long discussion of past problems being projected onto a new business in Langley.
The Langley City Council discussed and debated the liquor license application for Spyhop, the new restaurant and lounge on Second Street in the former location of Mo’s Pub and Eatery, for nearly 30 minutes at the body’s regular meeting on Monday. The location, under the former operation and owner, was a persistent source of complaints from nearby residents and neighbors. Noise, rowdy crowds and litter were all cited as problems stemming from the business’s late-night operation.
During the midst of the yearslong discussion, former owner Maureen Cooke said she did everything she could to contain the crowds, from keeping doors shut during hot summer days and asking patrons to stay inside to hiring staff to police the outside chatter volume, but could not appease the neighbors. A motion to deny the liquor license by Councilman Bruce Allen was unpopular with Councilwomen Ursula Shoudy and Rene Neff, who saw it as obstructing a business.
“They haven’t done anything wrong,” Shoudy said, referring to new owners Dan and Susan Morgan of Langley.
Added Neff: “I don’t want to discourage these people from having a business here.”
The specter of those experiences lingered in the minds of the city council members. Allen initially requested that the city ask the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, which authorizes liquor licenses but allows municipalities to weigh in if there are reasons to deny the application. It should wait until a hearing examiner can determine the land use rights for that property.
Such a move is in the midst of a challenge in the City of Snohomish. In the summer of 2015, the Snohomish Police Department requested the liquor board shut down a tavern after reportedly observing and documenting persistent problems with the establishment. The bar challenged the board’s process to revoke its liquor license, and will go before the state Attorney General’s office in July.
Eventually, the council approved it after learning that their decision would not impact the hearing examiner’s decision and may not impact the state liquor board’s decision.
Mayor Tim Callison said the city could not provide documentation or evidence of how the land use for the lot changed. That building has housed restaurants, kitchen supply stores and other businesses for decades. When a lounge was put in, the problems began. Now a hearing examiner is needed to settle what will be allowed there.
“There’s no conditional use permit, we’ve searched high and low,” Callison said.
The Morgans, the current owners, have named their restaurant Spyhop, after the activity done by whales commonly seen off Langley’s shoreline.