Updated Jan. 6 at 1:34 p.m: Public Health – Seattle & King County released a statement Wednesday afternoon confirming that Stimpy’s restaurant’s license was suspended after the December inspection and that Stimpy’s is currently operating illegally. “Purposely flouting regulations, putting others’ lives and health in danger, and possibly prolonging the outbreak in our community, is not acceptable. We are currently evaluating next steps,” the statement said. Officials would not elaborate on what legal action they might take against Stimpy’s.
Public-health officials ordered Stimpy’s Sports Bar & Grill in Kent to close Monday after an inspector witnessed “30 to 40 customers” inside the bar on Dec. 29, despite the state’s indoor dining-room ban.
But in an act of defiance, Stimpy’s stayed open, with owner Steven Siler welcoming diners and vowing to keep his doors open during the pandemic.
“This is a survival thing. It’s my business. It is either this or die. Throw it away or fight for it. And I am fighting for it,” Siler said, in an emotional phone interview Tuesday night.
Despite the state mandate, reopening was the only way to continue to pay his $8,000 monthly lease to save his 10-year old business, Siler said.
Siler is not alone in his defiance of Inslee’s restrictions. On Sunday, several restaurants in the state, including Brock’s Bar & Grill in Cowlitz County, opened for indoor dining on what they termed a “Day of Defiance.”
According to records from the Public Health — Seattle & King County and the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, Stimpy’s has been cited for numerous COVID-19 violations in the past six weeks.
The health department said in an inspection report that the sports bar had been warned as early as Nov. 18 about allowing indoor dining despite the dining-room shutdown.
On a Dec. 29 follow-up visit, a health inspector “upon arrival,” noted that “two out of four employees at the bar were not wearing facial coverings or masks,” and found the bar had violated several other COVID-19 operations regulations. The report concluded that “at least a half dozen indoor dining tables were occupied …” and up to 40 customers were seen eating and drinking. “Most customers were not wearing a mask while walking around inside the restaurant,” and “no social distancing was observed inside the restaurant among customers,” the inspector noted in the report.
Stimpy’s, with the capacity to hold about 200 patrons, has had a steady stream of about 40 supporters every night, the bar owner said.
“I am opened right now, and I will reopen tomorrow too. It is not right that they are shutting down a small business.”
“My revenue has been cut in half,” and takeouts and outdoor dining in this rainy weather don’t draw enough customers to make up for the lost sales, Siler said. “My business is worth nothing. Who would buy a restaurant in this climate? There is no viable option other than to stay open.”
Siler said the liquor board has also threatened to suspend his liquor license.
According to public records, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board has also cited Stimpy’s for at least five COVID-19-related violations in December, and a spokesperson said Tuesday afternoon that the liquor board received other complaints about Stimpy’s related to COVID-19-operations violations that it is investigating.
The health department stipulated that to reopen legally, Stimpy’s must submit a “written COVID prevention plan” that outlines steps management will take to ensure public safety against the virus.