Spokane protesters to rally at liquor board office

SPOKANE — Protesters are expected to pack the parking lot of the Liquor and Cannabis Board office at 11:45 a.m. Monday, Jan. 4, to rally for restaurants and taverns trying to keep indoor table service — and their businesses — open.

The peaceful protest being organized by Caleb Collier of Spokane Valley will take place in the parking lot at 1303 W. Broadway Ave.

The protest is the first of two to take place at Liquor and Cannabis Board offices in Eastern Washington this coming week.

The second it set for 4 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 6, at the agency’s Pasco office, 2715 St. Andrews Loop Suite B, organizers in the Tri-Cities said.

The protests come a week after Gov. Jay Inslee extended his shutdown of indoor services at restaurants, taverns, bars, bowling alleys, movie theaters, gyms and more, claiming the shutdowns are necessary to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

However, neither the governor and his staff nor health officials have provided any definitive data to support the assertion the virus is being spread in such locations.

Organizers of the protests say they want to make sure public workers employed by the Liquor and Cannabis Board hear their complaints over the unconstitutional shutdown orders and the workers’ threats of fines and liquor license revocation.

Gov. Jay Inslee himself has even threatened jail time for restauranteers and other business owners who continue to keep inside table service and other services available.

The upcoing protests at the Pasco and Spokane Liquor and Cannabis Board offices come more than a month after protesters rallied in front of the Kennewick home of Austin Shively, a liquor board sergeant who allegedly threatened the owners of eateries and taverns that stayed open with fines, license revocation and other penalties. Patriot Prayers Joey Gibson of Vancouver led that protest, as well as two others in Pasco.

New round of threats

Organizers said the liquor board’s recent round of threats prompted the protests.

Some of the businesses threatened, again, include Kimo’s Sportsbar and Brew Pub, Koko’s Bartini and Barley’s Brew Pub, among others in the Tri-Cities. Kimo’s has sinced closed their doors to inside services.

Liquor officers have used similar tactics elsewhere in Eastern Washington, threatening owners of The Black Diamond and Stormin’ Norman’s Shipfaced Saloon, both of Spokane Valley, Top Notch and the Hyde Out Bar and Grill in Colfax, among others. Liquor officers have even threatened to fine stores that sell beer and wine, including the small Tekoa Market in rural Tekoa.

Business owners say officers show up and cite Washington Administrative Code 314-11-015(3)(c) as the grounds for their enforcement effort. Under the code, establishments with a liquor license “have the responsibility to control their conduct and the conduct of employees and patrons on the premises at all times.”

Subsection (3)(c) references alcohol-related “behavior that provokes conduct which presents a threat to public safety.”

Protesters and business owners say gubernatorial orders unrelated to alcohol are not covered by the agency’s use of a “catch all” subsection.

That section of the administrative code — a set of rules the agency developed to enforce laws outlined in the Revised Code of Washington — is only related to public health as it relates to alcohol, they say, noting it was intended for over-serving or serving minors.

Where’s the proof?

Restaurant and tavern owners say the governor and Liquor and Cannabis Board need to provide proof that their establishments are a risk to public health.

To date, neither the governor nor liquor board has provided any definitive proof.

Washington Hospitality Association CEO Anthony Anton last month criticized the state for failing to provide any proof restaurants and taverns are causing the virus to spread.

Just last week he again chastied the state for continuing to order inside services shuttered.

“When will main street businesses see a plan from the governor that will pull them back from the brink rather than pushing them over it,” he said is response to an extension of Gov. Inlee’s orders to Jan. 11, the first day in the upcoming legislative session.

“When the governor substantially shut down the hospitality industry in November, he indicated cases would level off and we expected to see a detailed path to reopening. Seven weeks later, neither of those things are true,” Anton said. “Hospitality operators are falling deeper in the red. Hospitality workers remain out of work.

“Businesses are closing…”

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Roger Harnack, Publisher

Roger Harnack is the co-owner/publisher of Free Press Publishing. Having grown up Benton City, Roger is an award-winning journalist, photographer, editor and publisher. He’s one of only two editorial/commentary writers from Washington state to ever receive the international Golden Quill. Roger is dedicated to the preservation of local media, and the voice it retains for Eastern Washington.

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