McGlades Bistro & Wine Bar intends to open under new ownership this weekend, even though a state board invalidated a zoning change allowing its reopening.
The Eastern Washington Growth Management Hearings Board ruled last month that Spokane County violated state growth laws by altering the zoning of the rural site to allow for a full-service restaurant, annulling the change. But the county and an attorney for the owners of the property, at 4301 E. Day-Mt. Spokane Road, have appealed that decision in Spokane County Superior Court. They allege the hearings board ruling “arbitrarily and capriciously ignores the clear rule of law.” They ask the court to order the board to permit the reopening.
Meanwhile, McGlades owner Triple Charged LLC plans to open Saturday. There is no indication the county will try to stop it.
County Commissioner Todd Mielke said that he didn’t know whether McGlades should be allowed to reopen now, but that attorneys are researching the matter for the county. The county could face a lawsuit by either side, he said.
“The attorney for McGlades is saying that they are within the law and they are willing to withstand any challenge and probably threaten us with litigation if we try to take an enforcement action against them,” he said.
The three women who own McGlades had planned to open Sept. 9. Obtaining a liquor license and health inspection delayed the debut.
“As far as we understand, we’re legal,” said co-owner Nikki Goetz.
The conflict began when McGlades’ previous owners converted it from a fruit stand to a restaurant, a use that conflicted with county zoning. Spokane County commissioners last year voted 2-1 to change the zoning.
The Center for Justice, a nonprofit Spokane law firm acting on behalf of four neighbors and the Neighborhood Alliance of Spokane, successfully appealed to the hearings board. Neighbors argued that the county failed to complete sufficient environmental analysis of the 4.2-acre site and that commercial use is inappropriate in the rural area.
Property owners Shawn and Theresa Gabel sold the business to Triple Charged, which now leases the building. It’s a popular spot on the route to harvest community Green Bluff.
Last week, a Center for Justice attorney sent Triple Charged a letter asserting that opening the full restaurant is “not a lawful use and is clearly inconsistent” with the hearings board ruling and county zoning code. He cited potential penalties for zoning code violations, including a misdemeanor charge punishable by as many as 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, as well as civil penalties.
“We urge you to reconsider any decision to reopen until legal proceedings surrounding this property are resolved,” Rick Eichstaedt wrote.
Eichstaedt said in an interview he thinks the county’s chances of a successful appeal are “pretty small.”
“The decisions of the hearings board are entitled to a lot of deference by courts,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that the county spends so much money defending poor land-use decisions instead of getting it right.”
But in the Superior Court appeal, attorneys for the county and the Gabels argue the board ignored evidence and “engaged in unlawful procedure and/or decision-making process when it substituted its judgment for the reasoned policy choices” of the commissioners.
The Gabels already separately are suing the county, saying it put them out of business.
For Goetz and her daughter, Summer, opening soon is a matter of realizing their investment. They say they’ve spent about $75,000 in savings and borrowed money on the business.
“We were just going to let things run their course and see where they come out,” Nikki Goetz said. “There’s nothing really for us to do at this point in time.
“Daily, people come in and tell us how glad they are that we’re reopening and how excited they are to have us here,” she said. McGlades’ temporary liquor license expires Nov. 29, but it can apply for two 30-day extensions, said Anne Radford, a spokeswoman for the Washington state Liquor Control Board. Because someone objected to the application, the board must rule on whether to issue a permanent license, she said.