Tacoma bar’s liquor license suspended after year of COVID complaints

The Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board has suspended the license of An American Tavern in Tacoma for 180 days, following nearly a year of citizen complaints and numerous citations.

“Due to the repeated, willful non-compliance and disregard for public health and safety, the LCB Board issued an immediate, emergency 180-day summary suspension of the liquor license per RCW 66.08.150(4),” the agency said in a May 13 release. “During this period, the Board will seek to revoke the license permanently.”

In total, the board has received 60 complaints about the bar, issued many verbal and written warnings, four administrative violations (a sort of permanent-record mark) and $800 in fines.

Yet the bar persisted in ignoring health and safety measures.

Use of the emergency suspension is rare, the board said, “reserved only for those cases where the public health, safety or welfare is at risk.”

Four other businesses have been issued such suspensions in the past year.

An American Tavern, owned by Kyle Bidwell, had been under the microscope in recent weeks. Efforts to reach him for comment were not immediately successful.

Neighbors reported continued violation of masking, social distancing and general COVID-19 rules for bars and restaurants, in addition to noise late into the night and violence in the adjacent parking lot. They also worried about the owner’s appreciation for safe liquor handling, with reports of highly intoxicated patrons.

The Tacoma Police Department has fielded dozens of calls to the bar at 744 Market St., on the ground floor of a residential apartment building and across from the city municipal offices.

The trouble began last spring, neighbors said. The liquor board issued its first warnings last fall and fined the bar $500 in April.

“Licensees have the responsibility to control their conduct and the conduct of employees and patrons on their premises at all times,” the agency said. “Except as otherwise provided by law, licensees or employees may not: (c) Engage in or allow behavior that provokes conduct which presents a threat to public safety.”

Bidwell opened the bar in 2018 with business partner Mathew Vierela. Vierela no longer lives in the state and is no longer associated with the bar, he told The News Tribune last month.

This story was originally published on The News Tribune.