Both sides now: Restaurant owner worried about her customers

By Dan Aznoff | Mar 17, 2017

There is much more to providing an excellent meal than fresh produce and a good wine list. For Diane Symms of Lombardi's Italian Restaurant on the Bothell-Everett Hwy, the safety of her customers and the preservation of her business have become an unexpected concern.

The restaurant owner said the wrappers and paraphernalia she finds in the parking lot of her restaurant is proof to her that patrons of the legal pot shops near her Mill Creek location use her property as “a place to party.” Reports from the sheriff’s department confirmed Symms’ complaints of the increase in petty crimes—ranging from loitering to malicious mischief—within walking distance of her establishment.

“I am well aware of some of the medical benefits that have been attributed to marijuana in the past few years,” Symms told The Beacon. “However, I am troubled by the fact city ordinances and county regulations have forced too many of these retail stores into small, concentrated pockets of unincorporated county.”

Symms has gone to the Snohomish County Council to support an ordinance that would establish minimum distances between retail marijuana stores. The county council did approve new guidelines in February that repealed the moratoriums on recreational marijuana stores and replaced it with an ordinance that established a 2,500-foot separation between retail marijuana facilities.

The new regulation also prohibits any marijuana related business within 1,000 yards of an existing or planned secondary or primary school. The second provision mirrors the regulation regarding the retail sale of alcohol.

The Lombardi’s Mill Creek location on the Bothell-Everett Hwy is in unincorporated Snohomish county. Symms is worried about marijuana retailers who are set to open recreational stores if, and when, the city of Mill Creek lifts its moratorium.

The Mill Creek City Council amended the City Code in 2014 “to prohibit any person or entity from producing, growing, manufacturing, processing, accepting donations for, or selling marijuana or marijuana infused products within the City of Mill Creek.”

Mayor Pam Pruitt has said the council has more important issues to deal with then reviewing a regulation that seems to be working for both businesses and residents of the city.

Symms said there is no reason to have multiple marijuana retailers in close proximity to each other since they serve the same customers and offer many of the same products.

“It’s not like a restaurant,” she explained. “An Italian restaurant can do well next door to a Chinese restaurant and across the street from a steak house. We each offer something different to our guests.”

Symms did admit that her vocal opposition to the recreational marijuana stores near her Mill Creek location prompted a flurry of negative posts about her restaurant on Yelp.

“Can’t help that,” she concluded. “The safety of my guests must be my primary concern.”

 

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