RICHLAND, WA - According to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I), Sterling's Restaurant has had 37 complaints of not following COVID-19 protocols totaled from the three different locations.

This information comes after seeing the above sing on their door in Richland, reading: 

“Anyone entering beyond this point is here for the sole purpose of enjoying our establishment and services as to customers. Our staff has been informed that they are not authorized to grant access to any L&I employee or any other state/government agent pursuant to RCW 49.17.070. The only authorized individuals to grant such access are the owners/operators of the business. All requests for entry should be directed to those authorized individuals, who can be reached at 509-628-2414.”

RCW 49.17.070 - refers to the right of entry for inspections and investigations. This allows for people from places like L&I to conduct inspections.

Sterling's in Richland also posted a sing that read "Per the governor's mandate, we are required to post that "Masks are required for entry." We happily honor any and all exemptions: Religious, Medical, Mental, Physical, and Spiritual."

L&I Media Communications Director Dina Lorraine said "Putting a sign up is not going to stop us from enforcing the governor’s rules and existing laws protecting employees in the workplace. L&I has systems in place allowing us to get the information we need in a variety of  ways.  For example, we can make observations from a public access location. We can use employee testimony and evidence submitted by members of the public who were inside the business. Or if necessary, we can get a warrant that allows us to enter the business.  A sign wouldn’t keep us from holding a business accountable or clear them from any wrong doing."

L&I is not handling this case any longer. They delegated to the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board for reinforcement efforts.

"We have been in contact with all three Sterling's locations and have been educating them on the protocols." said Brian Smith, Spokesperson for Liquor and Cannabis Board.

According to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, from August 24th of this year to September 20th has had 37 complaints concerning COVID-19 protocols. Complaints can come from both employees or citizens who claim the business is not following COVID protocols and putting people at health-risk.

To compare, in that same timeframe Safeways across the region had the top number with 308 complaints BUT 200 of those come from unique addresses - meaning they're spelled differently when entered by the public. The businesses with the most complaints at just one businesses location is Ranch and Home with 18. 

"We are there to help businesses keep their employees safe. But our goal is not to shut them down." said Smith.

In conjunction with RCW 49.17.070, under WA law RCW 43.06.010 which states the general powers and duties of the governor - the governor can declare a state of emergency in a public health crisis and exercise powers within that affected area, in this case, the entire state of WA. RCW 49.17.064 effective since 2021, discusses protocols for public health emergencies. And Under RCW 49.17.060, employers have to follow these mandates as well. 

If businesses do not comply, they can receive  violation. 4 violations within 2 years could lead to revoking of one's liquor license. Although, that is not the goal of either L&I or Liquor and Cannabis

"The goal is compliance and good business." said Smith.

"So far, we have not seen employees not wearing masks at least when we're there." said Smith.

As for Ranch and Home, L&I sent an education email on 9.20.21, a certified letter was delivered on 10.04.21, a phone call was made and contact with the owner occurred 10.13.21, followed with another email on 10.15.21. 

Sterling's declined giving a statement about their post.