4 Tacoma Taverns Closed In Alleged Fencing Scheme

TACOMA - Following early-morning raids, city and state authorities yesterday ordered the closure of four taverns and arrested four people who they allege operated a group trafficking in stolen cigarettes, liquor and food stamps.

The four taverns operated as fences, buying the stolen cigarettes and liquor from thieves at low prices and reselling them at retail prices at the taverns, said Charles Meinema, Tacoma police assistant chief.

The taverns that were closed: the Tally Ho Tavern, 1011 S. 11th St.; the Iron Horse Restaurant, 754 Pacific Ave.; the Hideaway Tavern, 754 S. 38th St.; and the 43rd Street Tavern, 4302 Pacific Ave.

Three men and one woman were arrested at their homes and booked into the Pierce County Jail. They were expected to be arraigned today.

Three of the businesses are linked by ownership, Meinema said. More arrests could follow, he added.

No dollar estimate was available on the goods seized. For example, though, cigarettes seized at the Iron Horse Restaurant had a retail value of more than $5,000.

The stolen food stamps likely were being used to purchase food by owners of the taverns, several of which have restaurants, Meinema said.

He said it was uncertain whether police expected to make any arrests of people who supplied the goods, much of which he said probably came from organized burglaries of warehouses.

Yesterday's actions culminated a yearlong joint investigation, some of which was conducted undercover, by Tacoma police, the Tacoma Tax and License Department, the state Liquor Board, the state Gambling Commission and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The Liquor Board forced the taverns to close for a minimum of 30 days, said Rex Prout, agent in charge. Appeals can be made by the business owners.

Prout said it was the first time the Liquor Board had forced four businesses to close at once.