Alcohol farm

State seizes liquor and revokes liquor license at Mackinaw’s in Chehalis in public confrontation

By Eric Rosane / [email protected]

It’s gift giving season for many. But not for the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Authority.

On Friday morning, state agency enforcement staff went to Mackinaw’s restaurant in Chehalis to seize liquor containers and revoke the company’s liquor license after months of public defiance of the measures COVID-19 health and refusal to temporarily close during a statewide outbreak about a year ago.

Since December 2020, a total of four violations have been filed against the company by the board.

By revoking the license, the state may have done the trick. Owner Laurel Khan, despite her persistence and optimism, said it’s likely the business won’t be able to survive. She said she may have to close Mackinaw’s and its associated bars and venues.

However, the restaurant is not closing permanently. Only the liquor license was revoked.

Khan spoke to The Chronicle on Friday morning, shortly before enforcement staff passed by. She said the whole ordeal is an injustice to the local business community and called the Liquor and Cannabis Authority’s enforcement of the law discrimination.

She pointed to other states across the country that have reopened and also the lack of enforcement at Lumen Field during Seahawks games. She feels the state is not enforcing the rules in King County.

“It is truly a tragedy. Not just to take away that economic base, but it’s a growing region, and it’s the only place companies can bring their employees and say, “Hey, it’s Chehalis.” We have that here,” she said, noting that she would rather see hefty fines than a full revocation of her license.

For Khan, she says, it’s about freedom, liberties and maintaining a sense of normalcy – but it could cost her and her 14 employees their jobs at Mackinaw’s. Khan has expressed distaste for the mandates before, after attending freedom rallies and vocally pushing lawmakers in the 20th Legislative District to do something about it at a town hall over the summer.

There are no regrets, Khan said.

“I stood up for what I believed in and I don’t regret leading my team through something we all believed in. I regret that this affects the livelihood of my employees, and this part hurts. But there is a plan in place, however,” she said.

She still plans to hold Christmas parties and events in the coming days, but won’t charge her “guests” for alcohol and beverages.

“I lose everything anyway, so why can’t I give?” she asked.

Cannabis and Liquor Control Board spokeswoman Julie Graham said Friday that cases of liquor seizures and license revocations for failing to follow COVID-19 guidelines have been extremely rare since the start. of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

Only a small number of similar actions have taken place, she said, and business owners have been very receptive to learning about the mandates in order to stay compliant.

“Most of them have been willing to comply and so there have been very few instances where we have had to take the step of suspending or revoking a license,” Graham said, noting that it’s still their goal to use education as a preeminent action for grasping. “In this case, it just wasn’t working. And, therefore, after a series of progressive actions, the board made the decision to suspend his license.

Four licenses have been canceled across Washington state and 17 temporarily suspended, Graham said.

Khan said she tried to fight the mandates in several administrative hearings with the board, but was unsuccessful.

In time for the 10 a.m. seizure, two police officers came through the doors of Mackinaw’s at around 9:37 a.m. and greeted Khan by first name. A few customers were already at the bar, having a drink in the morning to mark this unique occasion.

Law enforcement and Khan employees began reviewing the documents in a nearby lounge. A Mackinaw’s employee began to berate state employees, saying, “Come to work and feel good about yourself? It’s awesome.”

Accusations that they were ‘picking and choosing’ began circulating, with one of the patrons saying he should drive to Lumen Field.

About 10 minutes into the 10 o’clock seizure, bottles of wine and beer began to open. As law enforcement officers began to systematically remove the roughly three dozen containers of hard liquor that lined the wall, disgruntled customers and employees had little time to savor their drinks before Khan could no longer serve alcohol.

Khan uncorked a trio of bottles of wine. A bartender dropped Bailey’s Irish Cream liquor in another person’s coffee shop. The protesters – with signs in hand comparing Inslee to the Nazi Party and declaring “Mackinaw serves this community and not Inslee” – entered the bar as law enforcement continued their work.

Someone put on some music. “Am I the Only One” by Aaron Lewis yelled loudly as everyone enjoyed their morning wine and beer, and the state did its job.

Rick Barrett, sales manager at Cascade Hardwood in Chehalis, was among a growing crowd of people who stopped by to see what was going on. He said the seizure was a disgrace because their 135 employees and customers go to Mackinaw’s.

It is their favorite place. And now the future is uncertain.

“Honestly, it helps us sell wood around the world. They don’t think about the ramifications of their actions,” Barrett said of the app.

Watching the state seize a large majority of its alcohol, Khan said it was still “unbelievable” that this happened.

“I’m not going to lose this,” she said. “The next two nights are our time when we have Christmas parties and people coming in and having reservations. And I’m not going to stop for that… I have to stand up for what I believe in. And, as I said, there is a silver lining. But right now it’s hard. »

Khan tore his business and liquor license in half before law enforcement passed. Back in its case, it was proudly displayed at the entrance to a Mackinaw’s bars – “F*** Jay Inslee + WSLCB” was scribbled in marker on the paperwork.

At approximately 10:12 a.m., an enforcement officer approached the permit and removed it from its frame. “The Star-Spangled Banner” was now playing in the background. He crossed out the section stipulating their liquor license, initialed it, and put it back in the case.

The song ended around the time they pulled the license.

“Let’s play ball,” one person shouted.

Mackinaw’s is considered one of the best restaurants in Lewis County. Earlier this year, he was one of a handful of local restaurants featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” one of Food Network’s most popular shows.