By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly
If there was any lasting impact residing from Donnie Chin’s murder (aside from permanent sorrow), it would be the city’s decision to shut down Seattle’s hookah bars with a new ordinance.
It will be an ordinance that affects all 11 hookah bars in Seattle.
That’s not what the Asian American leaders were initially asking of Mayor Ed Murray.
The Asian community just aimed specifically at Kings Hookah Bar, on 8th Ave. S. and S. Lane St.
Chin was shot and killed near Kings. Accompanied by police, the Asian leaders had led two protests there since Chin’s death on July 23. But no, Murray said at his press conference on Aug. 3, “The city no longer tolerates hookah lounges’ some of the violence… and unlawful smoking in public places.”
“I was surprised,” said Bob Santos, one of the protest leaders. “I wasn’t expecting (the mayor to close all of them). I didn’t know about other bars having problems, which the Mayor talked about, not paying taxes, violating the smoking ban …” (Washington state passed a law banning smoking in public places in 2005.)
“I thought he would go Seattle ‘nice’ on this issue,” said Frank Irigon, another protest leader. “But with the East African community showing solidarity with our (Asian) community, and with Peter Holmes, the City Attorney, Seattle Police Department (SPD) Chief Kathleen O’Toole, and Marguerite Ro, King County Health Dept., being on the same page on closing down the hookah bars, he was emboldened to act.”
Another community leader Dorothy Wong said, “I know the Mayor and SPD have received numerous complaints about the hookah lounges. While I don’t know what actually takes place in these establishments, I do know the patrons of these lounges have been engaging in a lot of public disturbances. Loud noise and fights late into the night, garbage strewn around the sidewalks and streets are what residents in the neighborhood have had to deal with.”
Wong said Kings is just across the street from a child care center and senior assisted living facility and it is “is truly outrageous. Mayor Murray is doing what he is able to carry out.”
Santos said community pressure has driven Murray’s decision to close the lounges. When people saw the mayor at public events, they would ask for public statements regarding the lounges.
Santos said the people were upset during the second protest at Kings, to the point where they wanted to go inside the lounge to scream and shout. The police told them no; they could only protest outside.
Murray knew and had worked with Chin previously. He acknowledged it was the city’s failure to not address the hookah lounge issue earlier.
Santos said a shot at one of the restaurant’s window the night Chin was killed, could have been a shot which could have fired upstairs where residents and children live.
Santos said the mayor was “courageous” in his decision to close the lounges. “The mayor used this opportunity to do something tangible.
“It’s too late for Donnie,” Santos said. “He gave his life for the residents. But it will prevent other people from getting killed.”
Santos said there will be no more protests. (end)