Protesters turn out to Koko's Bartini
Pasco city councilman, Benton County Sheriff among speakers
Last updated 12/6/2020 at 5:13pm
KENNEWICK — Hundreds of supporters turned out Saturday night to help Dana Slovak in his fight to keep his restaurant and bar open amid unconstitutional coronavirus mandates.
Outside, about 75 protesters braved the cold to wave flags and carry protest signs. Motorists passing by Slovak's 4309 W. 27th Place Suite No. 100 restaurant honked in support. Inside, tables filled up, emptied and filled again with customers wanting to dine inside the upscape establishment.
"I'm trying to stay humble," Slovak said of the turnout and support for his effort to stay oepn amid Gov. Jay Inslee's orders shuttering inside service at restaurants until at least Dec. 14 (the day the Electoral College is required to officially select the next United State president-elect).
Slovak himself manned the grill, making hotdogs for protesters arriving early.
Several high-profile area residents joined the protest including Benton County Sheriff Jerry Hatcher, Pasco City Councilman Pete Serrano and former candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction Ron Higgins, among others.
Meanwhile inside the upscale restaurant and martini bar, patrons took a seat to order dinner and drinks, filling the tables many times over during the several-hours long event. Slovak's employees were literally running to try to keep pace with the number of patrons who turned out to order dine in.
As the event continued, Slovak opened up an atrium alongside his restaurant for protesters to get in out of the cold and to hear from keynote speakers.
Donnie Landsman took over the microphone as the emcee.
Pasco City Councilman Serrano was among the first to speak to the mostly unmasked crowd.
"I'm here because of you. I see people who are passionately engaged; I see people who are disenfranchised," he said. "I'm fighting for you. I'm fighting for us."
Serrano said shutdown edicts from the governor haven't gone unnoticed in his city. And on Monday, Dec. 7, he said the council will be taking up discussion of an ordinance he hopes to make similar to one previously approved in the city of Mossyrock declaring the community a "sanctuary" safe from the governor's orders.
"I've seen the packet," he said, noting that it doesn't quite have the passion that Mossyrock's ordinance has. "It's close enough that I can push the issue."
Serrano said the last nine months haven't been uncomfortable, as the governor has said.
"They've been bad," he said. "We can't sit around, look at our community and say 'sorry.'"
Serrano said he hopes his colleagues on the council will join him Monday and tell the governor enough.
"Hopefully, we can push things through and tell Inslee to just leave us alone, go away, don't be a self-appointed oligarch," he said.
According to Serrano, the Tri-City area needs to "stand together, unit and do what we can to preserve our rights."
Higgins, too, said the community needs to stand together, not just against the closures, but also against coronavirus testing, mask wearing and unconstitutional overreach.
"COVID measures are outrageous," he said. "It's not Ebola, not SARS. It's politics..."
Higgins called masks "face diapers," saying he won't wear one. He even recounted a story whereby he lost his substitute teaching post because he refused to wear one.
"Somebody had to stand up," he said, noting the barrage of testing and governmental recommendations turned orders are only adding to hysteria.
Teacher Tara Childs picked up where Higgins left off.
"Inslee has made going to school perverted. He's made smiling at people perverted. He's made going to a restaurant perverted," she said, vowing to continue speaking out for what is right.
Sheriff Hatcher, too, vowed to stand up for what is right and against unconstitutional mandates.
"My job as sheriff is to protect your rights and the Constitution, period," he said.
Hatcher said public employees need to remember who they work for.
"Unfortunately, there are elected officials who all too often forget who they work for," he said. "Everybody in this room is my boss. Jay Inslee need to understand that everybody out here is his boss, as well.
"He does not get to enforce his unconstitutional (initiatives, attacks)... As long as I'm here, I guarantee I'll fight for your rights. I'll for for our Constitution."
Hatcher reminded protesters that there is strength in numbers.
"We are stronger together," he said. "This is America. You get to choose what you want to do. If you don't want to go to Dana's restaurant, stay home."
Hatcher called Slovak a "great leader" for taking on governor's unconstitutional mandates.
Slovak, however, doesn't see himself as a leader. Instead, he calls himself a businessman just trying to keep his restaurant alive.
"I never thought I'd be in this position to fight to keep my doors open," he said.
Slovak credited his employees for leading the charge to stay open, saying he told them it would be a fight.
"It's going to be a slug. It's going to be a fight, It's going to be fines," he said, recalling his discussion with employees. "It's not going to be easy."
The restauranteer said that for the last several months, the mandates have kept him awake at night. And most recently, he said the shutdown orders have had him wondering if staying open is worth it.
"It's not easy," he said. "You just lay there and think about it."
The crowd responded by thanking him for staying open and taking on the governor. The crowd yelled together that "it's worth it."
A modest Slovak thanked the protesters and the patrons in his filled restaurant for their support.
"Your support is overwhelming," he said.
Slovak told the crowd to encourage other restauranteers and bar and tavern owners to open up.
"It's very important that buisnesses stand up," he said.
Slovak isn't the only one defying the governor's ban on inside service.
With winter settting in, several eateries around the state remain open, including Spiffy's Restaurant and Bakery in Chehalis, Farm Boy Drive-In Restaurant in Olympia, The Fairway Cafe in Lynden, as well as many others.
Many restaurants and taverns initially remained open, but have since shut their doors or switched to take-out only following visits by state Liquor and Cannabis Board agents threatening fines and revocation of liquor licenses.
Some of those include three Sterlings Restaurants in Kennewick and Richland, the Palouse Hyde Out in Colfax, Kimo's Sports Bar and Brewpub in Kennewick, among others.