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Several breweries, taprooms say they were forced to shutdown for unclear violations

2 King County breweries say they were forced to shutdown for unclear violations. (KOMO News)

KING COUNTY, Wash. -- Trouble is brewing for several local taprooms and breweries in rural King County.

Several of them say they've been forced to shutdown for code violations they say are unclear and unmerited.

Lumber House Brewery in Hobart/Maple Valley and Four Horsemen Brewery in Kent have been up and running since 2014.

"This has been our dream as long as we could remember. We studied for this," said Lumber House co-owner Melissa Earl. "We built our academic lifestyle around doing this business."

Both businesses say they were forced to shut down their taprooms late last year.

"It's frustrating. It's terrible," said Four Horsemen co-owner Dominique Torgerson. "We have no revenue coming in from the business and we still have other bills to pay."

Earl said her brewery is losing thousands of dollars every month, and now, both brewery owners argue that King County is interpreting regulations differently.

"We're not allowed to use our taproom currently due to interpretations of regulations going on in our industry," Earl said. "Particularly in our zoning areas."

They claim several local breweries as well as wineries in unincorporated areas have been targeted by King County because of zoning code violations.

"We asked could we operate until they figure out what they're doing or until we come into compliance. We were told no. We were told we had to cease operation," Torgerson said.

Meanwhile, a spokesman from King County said the matter is a "land-use issue."

In a statement from Jim Chan, King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review, he said, "There are wineries, tasting rooms, and breweries operating in unincorporated King County that violate county land-use regulations."

The County also said that several people have filed noise complaints about the businesses.

The breweries refute that claim.

“We’re in the middle of 7 acres surrounded by trees. I live on the property,” said Earl.

King County released the following statement saying it is also working on a proposal.

"...to modernize regulations to support our region's thriving wineries, breweries, and distilleries while balancing the need to protect the natural environment and rural integrity of unincorporated King County," said Chan.

The breweries say they got the go-ahead from county, state and federal government several years ago. They say they are unclear of what codes they are violating now, but they want the chance to make it right.

"Id' like a chance to defend my business," Earl said.

“I don’t think they were doing anything with due process. I think they were misinterpreting and trying to establish regulations when we are in established use according to King County code,” said Torgerson.

The local breweries are asking their supporters to email King County Council members about the issue. Another affected business, Matthews Winery in Woodinville, has even started a petition on change.org.

Meanwhile, a King County spokesman says a proposal to modernize regulations will be sent to King County Council soon for review.

"The proposed updates have the potential to serve as a model for other metropolitan regions that face the same challenge when a thriving wine and beverage industry emergres in rural communities- especially those communities that are not grape-growing regions, such as King County," said Chan.

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