Tri-Cities bar says state pulled its liquor license for defying COVID rules

KENNEWICK — A Kennewick bar says the state of Washington has pulled its liquor license for violating state COVID pandemic restrictions.

And a second Tri-Cities restaurant that also had continued serving customers indoors posted Tuesday night that it was closing indefinitely starting Wednesday.

Koko’s Bartini in Kennewick posted a photo of some state documents Tuesday night on its Facebook page.

The complaint from the Washington state Liquor and Cannabis Board said Koko’s was serving indoors on Dec. 22, posing a threat to public safety and in violation of Gov. Jay Inslee’s restrictions on indoor service.

“LCB now harassing Koko’s with pulling their Liquor license. Support Koko’s Bartini,” said the post, which included a link to donate to its legal fees.

Within an hour of the post, more than 150 comments were added, most supporting the business and angry about the statewide restrictions.

Earlier this month, Koko’s Bartini had received a written warning and then a notice of violation and chose to end indoor service.

It added an outdoor tented area for sit-down food and cocktails, as allowed by state COVID protection restrictions. But then it began indoor service again.

A Richland restaurant also had started serving indoors again after initially stopping following a state warning.

Kimo’s Sports Bar and Brew Pub in Richland was served with a notice of violation this month for continuing to serve customers indoors after a written warning from the Washington state Liquor and Cannabis Board.

The notice of violation gave a choice of either a $500 fine or a five-day liquor license suspension.

Kimo’s had vowed to fight a legal battle to continue indoor food and drink service. It said offering only takeout, delivery and outdoor dining in the current cold weather were not a legitimate way of doing business.

Earlier this week, Kimo’s was packed for indoor dining and drinking with every seat taken.

A sign posted on Facebook on Tuesday night said it was closing “until further notice” but it did not say why.