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Sultan bar's liquor license suspended after flouting mask mandate

Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board officials say Loggers Inn had three violations since August.

SULTAN, Wash. — It's no secret that Sultan's Loggers Inn hasn't been complying with the state's mandate.

The bar's owner stated it very clearly with a sign on the front door.

That decision could now cost him his business.

On Thursday, Loggers Inn was open, but empty at lunchtime.

The state Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) suspended the bar's liquor license for six months on Wednesday after three violations of the state's mask and social distancing mandates since August.

A fourth citation was issued for allowing people to smoke marijuana inside the bar, which is not allowed under the state's cannabis use law.

"We try to simply educate people about the rules as much as possible," said the board's Justin Nordhorn. "But this was a continued pattern that needed to be addressed."

"My policy on masks is if you wanna wear one, if you feel your health is at risk, then wear one," said Leo Moreno, who has owned the bar since 1998.

Moreno pointed to Sultan's low number of reported COVID-19 cases as one reason for his mask policy. 

He believes his bar is safe. 

"We have hand sanitizer. We clean everything. We make sure everything is clean," Moreno said. "Why is it my job to make sure everybody is doing what somebody else is telling them to do?"

Nordhorn said since restaurants and bars were allowed to partially reopen this summer, they have become among the biggest spreaders of COVID-19, with statewide and national cases continuing to climb every day.

"It's really putting those people at risk. When they go home, they're putting their families at risk and their extended families at risk," Nordhorn said. "We're looking out for the best interests of our citizens."

The LCB said, since the start of the pandemic, it has received about 6,500 complaints about bars and restaurants not following state guidelines, but it has only issued 20 citations.

Loggers Inn accounts for three of them.

"The vast majority of the time, the businesses understand what to do and comply," Nordhorn said. "We want to work with them to help them be successful." 

With alcohol sales making up 75% of his business, Moreno faces a very long six months. 

If he is caught ignoring the mandate again, he could have his liquor confiscated and his license canceled.

Right now, he's looking for help in appealing his case and a way to simply survive.

"I'm obviously being made an example of here," he said. "We'll figure out how to get through this."