SULTAN — The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board issued an emergency liquor license suspension Wednesday for the Loggers Inn after officers witnessed three COVID-19 violations in two months.
The suspension is for 180 days. The Loggers Inn can appeal the decision.
Bar owner Leo Moreno was not sure of his next steps, but he planned to talk with a lawyer. The business can still operate as a restaurant but must not serve alcohol.
“While the licensee informed officers on at least two occasions he would comply with the state COVID-19 order, follow-up visits showed they were not complying,” according to a WSLCB news release.
The Loggers Inn, at 215 Main St., claims to be the “oldest bar in the West.” It’s been open since 1880, Moreno said.
Besides the three COVID violations, officers also noticed people using marijuana there nearly a year ago. Board officers last visited the bar Oct. 24.
Around 30 customers and two employees reportedly were not wearing masks or social distancing at the time. Signs also made it clear that customers were not expected to follow coronavirus guidelines, board spokesperson Julie Graham said.
“Those are all violations and it is a big concern,” she said. “Especially at a time when we know the disease is continuing to spread and increase in our state.”
Snohomish County reported more than 140 cases of coronavirus on Sunday, the highest single-day total of the pandemic, according to the Snohomish Health District.
While he has moved seats away from the bar and closed by the required time, Moreno said, he has not enforced masks or social distancing because there have not been many cases in Sultan, where an estimated 5,530 people live. Since March the city has seen 70 cases, health district data show.
Plus, Moreno said, most customers have been visiting the bar for decades.
“I don’t get people from other places, I get people who come here until literally the day they die,” he said. “This is a small town bar, not some big city place.”
Moreno has owned the bar for 16 years. He does not believe the state should be able to take away his liquor license for the offenses.
“They are not here as the LCB, they are here as the socialist police,” he said. “When they say you can’t do this, you can’t do that … they are pretty much telling us: ‘Forget the American dream.’”
This kind of liquor license suspension appears to be the first in the county, Graham said.
Usually when a business is made aware of a COVID violation, owners do their best to fix it.
“Most places want to do the right thing,” Graham said. “We are grateful they are complying. It makes the public safer and our job easier.”
Moreno has 20 days to appeal the board’s decision.