Kent Police shut down troubled bar for lack of business license

Officers arrest two El Habanero owners

Kent Police shut down the El Habanero restaurant last week along West Meeker Street for operating a business without a license.

Officers arrested the two owners of the business, ages 42 and 43, for investigation of operating a business without a license in violation of city code, said Assistant Chief Jarod Kasner in an email Tuesday.

Police, responding to numerous complaints about criminal activity and safety issues, shut down the restaurant, 1819 W. Meeker Street, last Friday night. Police received complaints about drugs; guns and shootings; under-aged alcohol sales and consumption; and sexual assaults.

Kent City Code (5.01.40) reads it is unlawful for any business to operate in the city without having first obtained a general business license for the current calendar year or unexpired portion thereof and paid the fees.

Valley SWAT was on location for the service of the warrant due to past calls involving firearms. Kent Police and Valley SWAT performed the sweep in cooperation with the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board and state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The past calls about shootings included a July 22 incident last year in the restaurant’s parking lot that led to a police pursuit of a vehicle and the death of Officer Diego Moreno, 35. Moreno had just deployed spike strips at the intersection of Kent Des Moines Road and West Meeker Street to try to stop a vehicle fleeing the bar when a fellow officer struck him with a SUV.

Kasner said the restaurant remains closed because the owners do not have a proper operating license.

“This is an extensive ongoing investigation and additional charges are anticipated,” Kasner said.

When asked about the involvement of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, Kasner issued the following statement.

“When it comes to the safety of the community, Chief (Rafael) Padilla encourages and values the partnerships the department has with surrounding enforcement agencies,” Kasner said. “This is still an ongoing investigation, but it required the specialization knowledge of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Liquor and Cannabis Board and legal staff of the city of Kent. These established partnerships allows for combined expertise and resources that we as an agency may not be able to provide alone.”

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