Dark Horse liquor license request put on hold

The Sunnyside City Council once again put on hold giving its approval to a liquor license renewal request from owners of the Dark Horse Inn on Yakima Valley Highway.

The Council had tabled the issue at an earlier meeting this year, pending a report from the police department concerning the Dark Horse.

"The Dark Horse does have the most DUIs as far as point of origin," said Police Captain Phil Schenck. "The Dark Horse is our biggest liquor establishment in Sunnyside by far."

Schenck last night presented Council with his report on the Dark Horse.

For 2004, the Dark Horse was identified as being the last point of origin for seven DUI cases, four of which happened on the same night, said Schenck. This is an increase from five DUI point of origin cases in 2003.

Schenck explained point of origin DUIs are the last place the person in custody is said to have had a drink at.

Schenck outlined in his report the past history of the Dark Horse Inn, saying there has been a dramatic decrease in the amount of DUI point of origin cases at Dark Horse, down from 20 reports in 1997 to seven in 2004.

Schenck said the local state liquor control agent doesn't have a concern about the number of incidents arising from the Dark Horse Inn. Schenck said the officer told him it did not meet the agency's threshold of arrests to become a targeted business.

Schenck did say he wasn't clear on what the state liquor control agency's threshold exactly is.

Councilman Bruce Ricks said he wanted to make sure the city finds out what the state's threshold is for such establishments concerning DUI violations. He also wants the city to work at defining what would constitute an issue with an establishment for DUIs.

Schenck's report also highlights the number of point of origin DUIs coming from other establishments in Sunnyside, including Valley Lanes, Blue Moon, Safari and China Grove. None of the other liquor-serving establishments exceeded two point of origin DUI incidents in 2004, with the exception of the La Bamba Tavern, which had four.

Councilman Don Vlieger said he is concerned with the number of incidents at the Dark Horse, considering the establishment is basically open just on the weekends, while the other facilities in town are open every day. Vlieger was also bothered by the fact the police department responded to 44 calls in 2004 at the Dark Horse.

"I think this establishment still has an issue," said Vlieger.

Councilman Paul Garcia, though, said he wanted to see a more detailed report, which would include the number of people served at each establishment, so he could make a proper choice on the license.

"I agree one DUI is too much," said Garcia. "(But) I don't have enough data without knowing some of the other things to make a decision."

Councilman Jim Restucci strongly voiced how it is the responsibility of the owners to make sure people aren't leaving their establishments intoxicated.

Carrie Stone, speaking on behalf of Dark Horse Inn owner Rosendo Magana, said the establishment works hard to attract popular music groups to the community, many of whom have won Grammies.

She said the Dark Horse has a seating capacity of 289 people, while other establishments are much smaller. Stone didn't feel it was just to compare Dark Horse to smaller establishments, considering the number of people that are served.

"You hear all the bad things about Dark Horse," said Stone. "But there are a lot of good things."

Stone then served as a translator for Magana, as he addressed the Council.

"I want to say every year I am up to here with this," Stone translated for Magana. "He feels like everyone is coming down on him."

Magana related through Stone that he has respect for city officials, but every year he seems to be bogged down in trying to get the city to approve his liquor license request.

Magana said a lot of people who are pulled over for driving while intoxicated do lie about where they have been.

Magana said he is trying to earn a living for his family at the Dark Horse and would like to continue to have the opportunity to do so, citing he has made major improvements to the facility over the past few years. Magana asked each of the Council members to try and put themselves in his place when making a decision on the matter.

Council tabled the issue until the Feb. 28 meeting.

The matter does not prohibit Magana from serving alcohol at his establishment, as the state liquor control board has the final say on the liquor license. However, the Council giving its approval to the liquor license renewal request does set more friendly with the liquor control board when it is considering the request.


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