By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Medina Private Club, one of two hookah bars in Chinatown, closed recently. The new business will be an art gallery of Chinese antiques, opening this month, the property owner told the Northwest Asian Weekly.
Two years ago, Donnie Chin, a community hero and unofficial patrolman of the Chinatown International District, was caught in a crossfire between rival gangs on South Lane Street in the middle of the night, close to both King’s Hookah Lounge and Medina Private Club. He died from his wounds.
Chin’s case has not been solved. The gunmen (or gunman) are still at large.
In August 2015, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray linked hookah lounges to violent crime, including the Chin shooting. More recently, on Labor Day, two men were injured in a shooting at a Renton hookah bar.
“Finding Donnie Chin’s killers is still our community’s priority,” said Teresita Batayola, president and CEO of International Community Health Services. “But it is a relief a hookah bar that served as painful reminder of Donnie’s murder is gone.”
Property owner Xiaohang Li said he had to end the Medina lease, even though it doesn’t expire until 2018. He told the Asian Weekly that he was under a lot of community pressure since Chin’s murder.
Li visited the club, on 700 South Dearborn Street, a few days before it closed on July 12. “The club had great business. It was packed with 70-80 people inside. When there wasn’t enough room, the customers stood outside the door.”
The whole room was filled with thick smoke, recalled Li, and the paint was dark, so you couldn’t see the smoke stains on the wall.
Li said he didn’t know what type of business Medina was in when someone approached him seven years ago to lease the 3,600-square-foot space. The rent was $5,600 a month.
“I had absolutely no clue that it was going to be a hookah bar,” he said. “The man showed me a valid business license.” Li thought his property would be used as an office.
Li said the Medina business owner was sad to leave. “He had tears in his eyes when I told him the news. He said Medina had the highest sales for hookah bars in Seattle. If I renewed his lease, he could sell his business. I told him that the club had a negative impact on the community.”
Li said the space was infested with smoke. He remodeled the whole room from top to bottom and installed a new ventilation system, and put up new drywall and ceiling.
Li came from China and lived in Seattle for a while. Then, he returned to China for his business ventures. Recently, he returned to Seattle and plans to open the antique business for exhibition, consignment, and auction. Li bought the property in 1994. ■
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.