Chef who loses liquor license calls Washington state’s approach ‘Fear, fear, fear’

Jan 3, 2022, 3:17 PM | Updated: 3:26 pm

Wheat Khan...

Laurel Wheat Khan, the owner of Mackinaw’s in Chehalis, has announced she's running for governor. (Courtesy of Mackinaws on Facebook)

(Courtesy of Mackinaws on Facebook)

A Lewis County restaurant and bar once featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” has had its liquor license stripped by the state of Washington. Owner/chef Laurel Khan blames the government for crying “fear, fear, fear.”

Mackinaw’s – a popular farm-to-table restaurant with its self-described “Chicago-style hip-city bar” vibe in Chehalis – has been under scrutiny by the state Liquor and Cannabis Board enforcement team since December 2020 for refusing to temporarily close during a statewide COVID-19 outbreak nearly a year ago.

After four violations filed by the board against the business – and four appeals of each – enforcement officials revoked Khan’s liquor license and seized Mackinaw’s remaining alcohol a few days before Christmas.

Why the opposition to state mandates? Dori asked Khan.

She told Dori Monson Show listeners that while traveling the country over the past 18 months, she saw restaurants under far less severe restrictions in other states. Khan feels Washington state’s approach is government overreach.

While facing early shut-down and mask mandate orders from the state, Khan told Dori, “I knew I had to handle this differently – for my patrons, my staff, our well-being, our mental well-being especially.”

Even as the first violations were filed against her establishment, Khan shared with listeners, she decided “I’m not shutting down” and opted to “run my business as normal.”

What’s normal, she says, is “to gather, to hug, to strengthen ourselves mentally … and not be isolated.”

Khan says she saw no “common sense” in the difference between how “the Safeways, the Costcos, the WalMarts” were being treated while she felt a “thumb down on the neck” of “all the little guys.”

Over the past two weeks, Dori pointed out, Washington state has seen the country’s ninth-highest spread of the Omicron variant despite having one of the most stringent mask mandates in the U.S. Some listeners remain frustrated at the tens of thousands of unmasked fans at Seahawk and Kraken games and indoor concerts – calling out a double standard between King County and the remainder of the state.

Meanwhile, the liquor license seizure has forced Mackinaw’s to change its business license to serving “food only.”

So what’s next? Dori asked.

“I have to think there is a silver lining,” Khan says, adding, “I will win the battle, if I just go rogue.”

Additionally, Khan has filed to run for governor of Washington state. The next gubernatorial election is on Nov. 5, 2024.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Chef who loses liquor license calls Washington state’s approach ‘Fear, fear, fear’