Elections

Council candidate applies for beer, wine license for his coffee shop

A chemical dependency counselor running for Town Council has applied with the state for a license to sell beer and wine at Warehouse Coffee, which he bought in September.

Warehouse Coffee, at 301 Tucker Ave., is located half a block north of Friday Harbor High School.

Clinton Mills, who bought Warehouse Coffee from Dwight Ware, is formerly associated with Allied Counseling Services, a practice now operated by his wife, Shahn McGuire. Mills is also a town planning commissioner. He and Felix Menjivar, a sheriff's deputy and fellow planning commissioner, are candidates in the Nov. 3 election for a position on the Friday Harbor Town Council.

Mills has an active chemical dependency counselor credential in Washington state, according to the state Department of Health database. He was formerly licensed as a mental health counselor and as a social worker.

Mills said he wants to expand Warehouse Coffee and make it more viable. It has not had as much foot traffic as he had hoped when he bought it. He has expanded the menu — with fresh barbecued sandwiches on Wednesdays and meatball sandwiches on Fridays — and wants to add features like karaoke nights and trivia. He said he could extend his hours to 10 p.m. at night.

He doesn't feel selling beer and wine will attract minors, who he said comprise about 10 percent of his customer base now. Most of his customers are adults on their way to work, or construction workers, or people from neighboring businesses — "the older crowd," he said.

"You're 1,000 feet from the high school anywhere in (town)," Mills said of the proximity of his business to the high school. He said most students don't walk by his coffee shop.

Still, his proposal has met some opposition.

The San Juan Island School District has opposed Warehouse Coffee’s application, citing the proximity to the high school. “Basically, it's just we have enough struggles with substance abuse, like all schools do,” Superintendent Walt Wegener told The Journal. “Warehouse Coffee is about 150 feet from our grounds. It just doesn't send the right message. That's basically our concern.”

The San Juan Island Prevention Coalition opposes the license application for the same reasons.

“The near proximity to a high school of an establishment that advertises and promotes consumption of alcohol is counterproductive to our efforts to promote and model alcohol-free healthy lifestyles,” wrote Melvin and Florence Harrison, Rita Weisbrod, and Brad and Debbie Fincher.

“Data from the 2008 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey show that over 41 percent of Friday Harbor High School students in grades 10 and 12 admit to drinking alcohol in the last 30 days. The state average for 30-day use of alcohol is 32 percent. It is clear that there is an underage drinking problem on San Juan Island.

“San Juan County has nearly three times as many alcohol licenses per capita than the average for Washington. Adding another place where alcohol can be purchased, especially one that is located in such close proximity to the school, does not make sense from a prevention point of view. Please deny this request to license.”

But Mills said if a minor wants alcohol, he or she would likely get it from home or a friend, not at his coffee shop. And he said that with his background as a counselor, he’s more prepared to deal with any potential problem, rather than contribute to it. "I care about the kids too."

Anne Radford of the state Liquor Control Board said Mills applied for a beer and wine license on Sept. 17; applications take 45-60 to process, but the school district’s opposition could make the process take longer.

Because of the opposition, the license will automatically go before the licensing division director for a decision. If the license is denied, Mills could appeal to an administrative law judge, Radford said.

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