Washington Bar Allows Indoor Marijuana Use

Maybe it’s the first in a new wave, or maybe it will stay the only place in the state.  But as it stands, Frankie’s Sports Bar & Grill in Olympia, Washington, is the first establishment to allow the smoking of marijuana.

Frankie’s Bar & Grill has a smoking-friendly second floor recently named “Friends of Frankie’s,” and is a private room for cannabis smokers who have paid a $10 annual membership fee.

The smoking section offers discounted appetizers to patrons. “Friends of Frankie’s” has over 10,000 members, and more join every day following the legalization of marijuana.  Though bar owner Frank Schnarr, 62, told REUTERS he will be monitoring the crowd.

“I’ll have security in here, and if I see a bunch of guys just trying to get ripped, they’re gone,” he said.

Last week only a small group at the back of the bar appeared to be smoking pot.

One patron, Chris Sapp, 28, said smoking in Frankie’s made him feel like he’s in Amsterdam.

“If I wasn’t a Friend of Frankie’s already I’d be one now because you can come here and smoke and feel free,” he said.  “That’s how it should be. We shouldn’t have to hide weed.”

But across the bar, a firefighter said he still feels for his career being in a place that allows open smoking of marijuana.

“I cannot be in this room,” he lamented. “It’s not like I’m sitting here smoking a joint or anything. My problem is that I’d love to, but I can’t.

Meanwhile you won’t find the bar owner, Schnarr, smoking in his own smoking area, as he hasn’t smoked since he was a soldier stationed in Southeast Asia in the 1970s.  He said he’s only allowing the marijuana-friendly floor as a way to take in additional income.

“I stay up at night,” he said. “I’m about to lose my business.  So I’ve got to figure out some way to get people in here.”

Schnarr won a battle with local and state officials to avoid a 2006 smoking ban and has the only bar or restaurant that allows marijuana use within the establishment.

State officials are unsure whether his situation is legal, including Seattle U.S. Attorney’s Office rep Emily Langlie. “Marijuana remains illegal under federal law,” she said.

“We’re looking into it,” added Olympia’s city attorney Tom Morrill.  “There are a lot of changes in state law right now. That’s all I can say.”

Liquor Control Board rep Mikhail Carpenter, who now oversees Washington’s regime for the cultivation, processing and sale of marijuana, added, “The board is weighing its options with regard to Frankie’s.  It’s not perfectly crystal clear as to who this falls to.”

Carpenter said Frankie’s Bar & Grill is in a gray area due to the restaurant’s previous fight over the smoking ban.

Schnarr’s attorney Shawn Newman said other bars and restaurants would also be allowing a cannabis smoking section if they had been fighting the smoking ban already set in place.

Meanwhile Schnarr said he is toying with the idea of opening a medical marijuana dispensary nearby.