Seattle’s gay community crying foul after SPD joins liquor agents on ‘premise visits’

SEATTLE — There has been uproar in Seattle’s gay community over so-called “weekend raids” by Seattle police and the state Liquor and Cannabis Board.

Eighteen bars across Seattle were visited on Friday and Saturday nights. Four of those bars are well-known gay venues.

But most of the anger seems to be directed at the Seattle Police Department’s JET, or Joint Enforcement Team, which joined the state officers at the establishments Friday night.

Many will remember the devastating fire at the Lumberyard nearly three years ago. Well, it has been rebuilt. And Saturday night, the Liquor and Cannabis Board paid an unannounced visit.

And owner Nathan Adams is familiar with visits from agents of the state Liquor and Cannabis Board.

“We were just having a drag show, so,” said Adams, laughing. “No, nobody was violating any laws. No.”

But he said what happened the night before in Seattle is no laughing matter.

“Why would the police come in with liquor control board?” Adams said. “That’s just not right.”

Indeed, Neighbours and Cuff, two well-known gay venues, along with eight other bars in the Emerald City were visited Friday night by liquor control agents and the Seattle Police JET Team.

“The JET team goes out about once a month, I believe,” said Chandra Wax, head of enforcement for the state Liquor and Cannabis Board.

Wax said it is not unusual for the JET team to accompany their agents in Seattle.

“JET is a Joint Enforcement Team,” Wax said. “And it’s made up of fire, police, code enforcement, transportation, and finance divisions or departments just looking to enhance public safety.”

She insists gay bars were not being targeted.

“The WSLCB does not target LGBTQ+ establishments and venue,” insisted Wax, “and is not specifically targeting lewd conduct violations.”

But Nathan Adams said it doesn’t look that way.

“Is there any reason to show up with two agents, police officers?” asked Nathan Adams. “I think the Fire Department was there as well. Really? You’re basically saying the building’s on fire and under attack.”

The Office of Police Accountability is investigating SPD’s participation.

The Liquor and Cannabis Board said it is reaching out to the gay community to allay their fears. But that likely won’t happen overnight. That’s just how deep the wounds are between police and the gay community they are sworn to serve.