Editor's note: Above video is a report on reopening of The Black Diamond in Spokane Valley
SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. — A deputy with the Spokane County Sheriff's Office went into a bar that has illegally reopened outside of Gov. Jay Inslee's stay-home order aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus and, after issuing a warning, gave the owner a hug.
Since Washington's stay-home order was issued in late March, authorities in the Spokane area have said they are focused on educating people about the order rather than issuing citations or other forms of punishment.
A member of the Reopen Spokane group on Facebook wrote that she was playing pool with friends at The Black Diamond on Monday night when the deputy walked into the bar, and after speaking with the owner, he gave him a hug.
"As he was walking out the entire bar started clapping for him as a way to say thank you. It was such a touching moment to be a part of. I love our city!!" the post reads.
Deputy Jeff Getchell declined to speak with KREM on camera but did release the following statement:
"I will say this, simply, it was nice to see people happy and smiling for a change... the amazing positive reaction from people of me giving the owner a hug (and acquaintance through the local music scene) spoke volumes about people’s feelings and emotions through all this, without actually saying a word... literally one of the most uplifting emotional moments I have experienced in my life, yet I still have no real understanding what it means, but it was definitely positive."
Spokane County Sheriff's Corporal Mark Gregory told KREM that Getchell is friends with the bar owner. He said Getchell originally stopped at the bar to let them know they were open illegally but decided to hug the owner while he was there.
"It was a human moment during this tremendously stressful, uncertain time," Gregory said.
Gregory said the owner stated he has also been contacted by the liquor control board.
Brandon Fenton, who owns The Black Diamond, said the bar was close to a financial breaking point before the doors were reopened to customers on Friday.
"It will be a breaking point for us very soon, and we didn't want to wait until we were at that breaking point," Fenton said.
Restaurants can reopen at 50% capacity during Phase 2 of Inslee's reopening plan, which could begin on June 1. Bars are expected to open at 25% capacity during Phase 3.
Though a message from the bar says it is operating at 50% capacity, a video posted on social media shows The Black Diamond packed with people who are not wearing masks or social distancing in line with guidance from health officials.
During a press conference on Tuesday morning, Inslee said it is "not acceptable" for bars to reopen outside of state guidelines.
“If there are bars that open, that is extremely disappointing and they need to come into compliance," Inslee said. "And we’ll be talking with the attorney general about that.”
A spokesperson for Attorney General Bob Ferguson said his office has not taken action against Spokane businesses that have remained open during the stay-home order, but other state agencies may have.
Sonja Hallun, a senior policy advisor with Gov. Inslee's office, told KREM on Tuesday that the state remains focused on educating businesses to encourage voluntary compliance.
“We are now at the point where we are seeing businesses that are opting not to be compliant and are looking at the enforcement actions that are needed," Hallun said.
“It’s up to law enforcement to make their decisions about what actions to take, and they will review and make those decisions based on their own policies and resources," she added.
Various state agencies are responsible for contacting businesses to provide education before issuing a warning or a cease and desist order if they do not comply. The next step will likely be fines or the filing of a Consumer Protection Act violation, Hallun added.
The state is already suing the owner of a gym in western Washington for defying the stay-home order.
Michael Jellison opened PA Fitness in Arlington last week. He was told by the state on May 18 that he must close the gym by 7 p.m. May 19 or he will be sued and face a fine, he said.