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El Gaucho owner takes cigar lounge case to Legislature

Publication Date: 2011-02-01
  • Author:C.R. ROBERTS

For Paul Mackay, owner of four upscale El Gaucho steakhouses, a court case wasn't worth the money or the time.

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department had closed the cigar lounge attached to his Tacoma restaurant. He believed he had met the letter and spirit of the law that ordered strict requirements of ventilation, separation and lounge operations.

A judge offered a temporary order closing the lounge.

Mackay could have gone back to court, but dropped the case.

"We took it to the point -- as far as we could go in Pierce County," he said Monday. "It wouldn't make sense to go to court."

There comes a time, he said, "to pull back and have a different strategy."

Along with the backing of the Cigar Association of Washington, Mackay has now taken his crusade to Olympia.

Bills were introduced to the State Senate and House late last week, offering a law that Mackay believes will be beneficial to state taxpayers, cigar smokers, and owners of cigar lounges and smokeshops.

The two similar bills require that the State Liquor Control Board collect fees from cigar lounges -- a maximum of 100 lounges licensed at $15,000 per year; and from retail tobacco shops -- a maximum of 500 statewide, each paying $5,000 a year.