Laurel Khan, owner of Mackinaw’s Restaurant and connected bar, Curious, in Chehalis, didn’t defy Washington’s COVID-19 restrictions against in-person dining as a political protest — at first.
She said she wanted to maintain a sense of normalcy and prevent the suffering caused by isolation. But after the Liquor and Cannabis Board revoked her alcohol license just before Christmas 2021 for repeated violations of Gov. Jay Inslee’s emergency order, Khan’s beef with the state and bureaucracy inevitably became about politics. So much so that Khan announced a desire to run for governor via Facebook earlier this year.
Her gubernatorial aspirations, however, are on hold. Last Thursday, Khan said around 10 law enforcement officers — some from the Liquor and Cannabis Board, and some from another agency, she wasn’t sure which — arrived at Mackinaw’s.
Officers obtained and executed a search warrant at the business and, according to Brian Smith, spokesperson for the Liquor and Cannabis Board, seized alcohol including wine, spirits and beer. Smith said there were eight officers from his agency.
Smith said the other agency was the Department of Revenue and that no local law enforcement was involved.
Smith said the board had received several tips from people claiming Khan or her staff were continuing to serve alcohol without a license.
“We did (an) undercover operation in there and verified that, indeed, that was happening at Mackinaw’s,” Smith said.
The Liquor and Cannabis Board was filing charges with the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office on Wednesday.
Asked whether she continued serving alcohol after her license was revoked, Khan said she had non-alcoholic wine and spirits for “mocktails.” She said she also used some alcohol in recipes including her fondue, though Khan did not specify whether that was before or after the state revoked her liquor license.
“Well, come to find out you can’t have any. If you don’t have a license, you can’t have any alcohol other than cooking sherry,” Khan said.
When the state seized her license and supply in December, Khan told The Chronicle she didn’t think the business would survive. She echoed that this week.
“I can’t, at this level of restaurant, survive without alcohol. People expect to have wine. They expect to have something. And this is a bar,” Khan said from a barstool in Curious as she sipped non-alcoholic white wine on Tuesday.
Khan was a Democrat for much of her life, she said, because she felt the party was previously more focused on personal liberties.
“I am not a proponent of big government,” she said.
COVID-19 radicalized her, she said.
“Definitely the pandemic (did). I was focused on business. And then when I saw the government overreach, that got me right back in my political self,” Khan said.
Right now, though, the several thousand dollar filing fee for the governor’s race is a hurdle. Asked about fundraising or crowdsourcing, Khan said she has trouble requesting money from others. She said her friends in politics have told her to “wait and see” for the time being. The outcome of her court case will also be a factor.
Khan has pleaded with the Liquor and Cannabis Board to see if they would reinstate Mackinaw’s liquor license if she handed ownership to one of her sons, but said she has yet to receive a response.
A court date had not been set by The Chronicle’s press deadline on Wednesday, but Khan said she was going to rally a big group of people for her appearance, including possibly 3rd Congressional District candidate Joe Kent.