OLYMPIA, Wash. - The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) says it will be increasing enforcement at liquor-licensed establishments defying Gov. Inslee's stay-home order.

"The LCB wishes to extend its appreciation for the continued cooperation of the vast majority of liquor-licensed businesses statewide which remain in compliance with Gov. Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy directive," the LCB said in a release.

The LCB acknowledged that while they have provided some allowances to liquor-licensed businesses to help generate income during the pandemic closures, businesses have faced a significant financial impact.

The LCB says since the order began in March, they have taken an educational approach to restaurants and bars continuing to operate or were otherwise in violation of the order.

"In nearly all cases, discussions with licensees have been enough to return the business to compliance," the LCB said. "Despite warnings, a small number of liquor licensees continue to willfully violate the Governor’s proclamation."

The LCB has received over 1,300 complaints of liquor-licensed businesses in violation of the order, but through May 19, they have issued no violations and 34 formal warnings or corrective actions.

In an effort to promote public health and fairness to compliant licensees, the LCB will immediately be increasing enforcement at locations already having received notice or warnings but continuing to operate illegally.

Businesses that choose to ignore education and/or warnings can be issued violations up to the point of an emergency license suspension, which is issued when a licensee's actions "risk the public's health, safety and welfare." Once that is issued, the agency begins the process to seek license revocation.

“We have emphasized education throughout this period; and it’s been enough in most cases,” said LCB Director Rick Garza. “In fairness to compliant licensees, we will begin issuing escalating violations to licensees who are acting in willful defiance of the Governor’s order.” 

A few bars in Spokane Valley have made headlines this week after recently opening in defiance of the governor's order, gaining attention from state officials.

The Iron Horse bar decided to close its doors again after receiving a visit from the LCB, and the LCB ticketed the Black Diamond bar & grill, according to the owners.

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