The Social, a popular Capitol Hill nightclub, reopened Thursday, eight days after it was forced to close when the state Liquor Control Board denied the club’s application for a permanent liquor license.
The club got a two-week reprieve Thursday morning when a King County Superior Court judge granted an emergency order essentially forcing the Liquor Control Board to issue a temporary liquor permit until March 4.
That’s when another judge — who is hearing arguments in a lawsuit filed in January by the club against the liquor board — is to consider a motion from The Social, asking that it be allowed to continue serving liquor while it appeals the board’s denial of a permanent license.
The Social, with a total capacity for 600 people, has drawn complaints about noise, traffic and rowdy crowds from residents living in five apartment and condominium buildings that surround the dance club.
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Those involved in the liquor-license dispute agree the case is unusual.
“I’ve represented other (Liquor Board) licensees for 29 years … and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Mark Kimball, one of The Social’s attorneys.
For Kim O’Neal, the assistant attorney general representing the Liquor Control Board, what’s unusual is that the board is being ordered to issue a temporary permit after it “already decided to deny the applicant.”
Bar and club owners who have been operating with temporary permits but who have their permanent licenses denied don’t have the right to continue serving alcohol while an appeal is under way, she said.
It typically takes one to two months for the Liquor Control Board to approve or deny an application for a permanent liquor license. The process for The Social has been going on for nine months.
Open since May, the club was able to serve booze after being issued a series of temporary liquor permits on a month-to-month basis as its liquor-license application was being considered.
But after discovering discrepancies in The Social’s application, the Liquor Control Board reopened its investigation into the club in September and last week turned down its application for a permanent license, said Liquor Control Board spokesman Mikhail Carpenter.
He said the board’s Feb. 13 decision to deny the application was because one of the club’s partners, Laura Olson, “misrepresented facts” in her application, in documents submitted to the board and in interviews with officials “concerning the source of funds, the financier and the true parties” involved in the club.
That same day, The Social’s latest temporary permit expired and the club shut down, costing the owners thousands in lost revenue.
Kimball said the board’s denial came as a surprise — and that neither the board nor the state Attorney General’s Office, which represents state entities, has been clear about the specific reasons for turning down the application.
Olson, who also operates two other Capitol Hill bars and one in Ballard, owns The Social with Alex Garcia and Chris Prado, according to court documents. In March 2011, the partners signed a 10-year lease and sank $700,000 into renovating the club, the records say.
Since at least January, The Social has contracted with Seattle radio station 92.5 to promote the club and provide disc jockeys on Friday nights, according to court records. Sales are typically slow on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but average $3,000 on Thursdays and $25,000 on Friday and Saturday nights combined, the records say.
As the legal wrangling continues, Tracy Brazg said she is bracing for another weekend of noisy crowds, clogged streets and music so loud she can feel the bass and make out song lyrics inside her first-floor bedroom, which about 10 feet from one of The Social’s walls.
Located at 1715 E. Olive Way, The Social is sandwiched between five apartment and condominium buildings, including Brazg’s, that tower over the club.
In October, gunshots rang out outside The Social after a fight inside the club. No one was injured hit and police quickly arrested a suspect.
Olson and her attorneys declined to comment on The Social’s relationship with its neighbors.
On the advice of Seattle cops, Brazg and other residents routinely call 911 to make noise complaints, she said.
“It’s terrible for residents and it’s just not an appropriate place for an enormous nightclub,” Brazg said.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org