The Washington State Liquor Board (WSLCB) is working to shut down a Wallingford nightclub for dancing around the state's liquor regulations.
On November 18th, the WSLCB sent a letter to the owners of the Babalu Mambo Lounge—located at 1723 N 45th St—informing them that the state was pulling their liquor license for failing “to act as a bonafide restaurant.”
State liquor laws require all bars—which are technically licensed as restaurants—to prepare and serve full meals to customers for several hours a day.
According to documents provided by the city attorney’s office—which filed an objection to Babalu’s liquor license renewal last April—Babalu’s menu at one point consisted of five “1950’s TV Dinners,” including The Babalu Chicken Pot Pie, Lucy Light Fish Fillets, the Desi Arnaz Hungry Man, the Fred Mertz Salisbury Steak and Ricky Ricardo Spaghetti & Meatballs, all priced at a whopping $99.95 each. State law requires bars and clubs to have a kitchen and a cook on staff, who actually prepares food on site.
Along with the overpriced menu items, the city attorney’s office has also cited several other reasons for objecting to Babalu's license renewal. The city's letter to the WSLCB also notes complaints from neighbors about the club’s noisy and sometimes violent crowds, and a 2007 citation by the city for failing to attain the proper zoning permits for the bar, which is smack in the middle of a relatively quiet residential neighborhood.
Babalu’s owners have appealed the WSLCB’s decision—the bar’s management could not be reached for comment—and the case will have a hearing some time this summer.
Babalu certainly isn’t the first bar to skirt the state’s food requirement laws. I won’t name names, but I can think of at least two or three bars I regularly frequent that don’t have anything resembling a kitchen, and I know of at least two other bars that have also had outrageously priced microwaved food on their menus, presumably in order to satisfy the state’s liquor law requirements.
As I wrote last month, a bill working its way through the state legislature could soon create a special nightclub license, which would allow bars to forgo food service requirements and stay out of sticky situations like the one Babalu is currently in.