The Lumber House Brewery in Maple Valley was open for business for two and a half years before King County officials sought to close it down. Brewery owner Melissa Earl said the reasons for the shutdown are murky at best.
“We kind of get different information depending on who we talk to. Half think that our approval letter wasn’t an approval, it was an approval to seek approval. And half of them think that our approval should stand as an approval,” Earl told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson.
Earl said she thinks that the county might be reading certain rules differently now than when she opened her business. And, she said, her brewery isn’t the only one being affected.
“We’re seeing a new trend on their interpretations of regulations based on a study that came out in 2015. It was called the Wine and Beverage Study of Sammamish Valley,” she said.
When Lumber House Brewery allegedly received approval to operate in 2014, Earl said it was after she had visited county offices three times to submit her plans.
“I was able to check each box, and then I submitted my license. We were not supposed to be able to get liquor licenses from the state unless the county signed off,” she said.
But the brewery did receive its liquor license from the state.
“They sent those approval letters. That’s what the state viewed as an approval letter. That’s what the federal government viewed as an approval letter and now they’re coming back and saying, ‘Oh no, that was an approval to seek approval,’” Earl said. “Clearly, there’s room for misinterpretation and there’s no leniency granted to any of these individuals that are trying to glean a clear path through this process.”
King County, a brewery, and complaints
It was a neighborhood complaint that first tipped off King County officials, Earl explained. But most of the brewery’s complaints, usually relating to noise, are about things she and her customers are legally allowed to do on the premises, she said.
“We’re located on seven acres in the middle of forest, so noise complaints are pretty well unfounded seeing as how we serve our clientele inside,” she said. And besides the location, Lumber House only operates its tasting room on Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m.
Amid all the confusion, Earl said she simply wants to know what to do in order to reopen her tasting room.
“All we want to do is work with our community, serve some beer, and enjoy what we built our brewery for, which was for the community. They’re making it pretty difficult for us right now, and all we want to do is serve the people,” she said. “I had two children in the process of believing we were approved and it took them two years to come back to me. I’ve had my kids now. They rely on this.”