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Beyond The Norm-Mel

Right on cue, city council raises Dark Horse issue

Life in a small town changes very little.

In my time working at the newspaper I have realized how little it changes from year to year.

Every year local events and festivals are held. Pageants are won and parades are held.

Each February I expect a phone call about dead birds falling from the sky into the yards of those living along Mabton-Sunnyside Highway, after they are poisoned as part of a nuisance control program.

Another story I expect to see every year, mostly because it is an issue that has been on the table every year for the past seven, pertains to the Dark Horse Inn liquor license. Once again this week, the Sunnyside City Council put a hold on the liquor license for the Dark Horse.

Seven years ago neighbors first brought the issue of the Dark Horse, a nightclub on Yakima Valley Highway, to the Sunnyside City Council because they had concerns about the establishment. The concerns had to do with loud noise coming from the building at all hours of the night.

After some work on the interior of the building, including sound-proofing the walls, the complaints subsided.

The largest liquor establishment in the city, the Dark Horse has seen a massive decrease over the past seven years in the number of DUI cases reported to have originated there. In the past when asking about these point of origin DUI cases, police have indicated that it is difficult to really say if a DUI definitely originated from the establishment. Some stopped by authorities not wanting to get friends in trouble may claim to have been drinking at the bar.

With attendance at the bar close to 300 on any given night most weekends, seven DUI arrestees in a year claiming to have been at the Dark Horse is not a lot.

The number of police calls, 44, is also not a great number, in terms of how many times local law enforcement responded to complaints there last year. In the past some of those calls have been because of car thefts and thefts from vehicles. Not all the calls are related to disorderly conduct.

What I find interesting each year when the Dark Horse Inn issue comes up, is that the city council has no real say in whether or not the Dark Horse is granted a liquor license. They put the issue on hold each year and make a big drawn out process about approving the license when really it is up to the Washington State Liquor Board.

The liquor board, which has no problems with renewing the Dark Horse's license, deals every day with establishments over serving adults and serving to minors. If after the liquor board reviews the Dark Horse application and the facts regarding that establishment and not having any qualms about granting a license, why should the city council?

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