SEATTLE -- A South Seattle business owner made a difficult decision this month.He put a corkinthe most profitable part of his business.

Exequiel Soltero made his last last call in the bar at Maya s Mexican Restaurant on Rainier Avenue South.As with many restaurants, beer, wine and liquor are the items on the menu that make owners the most money.

Now, Maya s bar is closed.A worker spent all of Friday clearing away the last remnants of the lounge converting it to a banquet room.

Soltero s decision to close the bar follows a spate of violence in the Rainier Valley neighborhood where his business has been a fixture for 32 years.Last month, two men died in a gunfight in front of his restaurant.One of the men had been drinking in the bar right before the shootings.

The deaths contributed to a dramatic rise in Seattle s murder rate during the first two months of this year.The nine deaths have tripled last year s homicide rate.

Soltero said he had a difficult time keeping the criminal element that gathers on the corner outside of his bar from coming in.

The bar business is very profitable, but I had to make a decision to focus more on the families, Soltero said.

Shootings scared half of his customers away. Soltero said as soon as he closed his bar last week the trouble-makers stopped showing up. He still serves drinks for patrons in his dining room.

Soltero has written letters to the mayor and police chief asking for more help to combat crime in the neighborhood.
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