Idaho bars want Washingtonians to feel welcome in Coeur d’Alene

COEUR d’ALENE, Idaho — Local bars in the area want Washingtonians to know they still want their business after a viral Facebook post said otherwise.

“They are our neighbors. We welcome them. We have people that come every weekend. They make the journey,” said Rita Mikalatos who owns Mik’s Nightclub. “It’s just sad to see so many people be frustrated or scared to cross the border, and that’s just not true.”

“Every year, they come, they come, they come, and it’s a good thing. It’s good for the economy. It’s good for my businesses, you know, everyone around us, so definitely, I welcome,” said Sandra Nelson who owns Sunset Bar.

On Sunday, another bar in the area, The Corner Bar, said it was going to stop serving anyone with a Washington ID, citing rudeness and inconsiderate actions as reasons for the business decision. However, other bar owners don’t echo the same feelings. They say Coeur d’Alene relies on business from tourists and welcomes Washingtonians.

“It just doesn’t apply to us. We live in a tourist town. We’re a nightclub, and we need the energy from everybody,” Mikalatos said.

There has been a spike in crime near larger bars downtown. Police have had to relocate resources and manpower to curb the crime. Also, there are still capacity restrictions in place. Mik’s Nightclub is only at 50% capacity. Mikalatos says there’s usually always a line outside with people waiting to get in, leading to increased problems for local, neighborhood bars that aren’t able to deal with the heightened amount of people.

“People get impatient, and they might start filling in some of the neighborhood bars where there’s only one bartender working instead of a whole staff with security, cocktail servers and bartenders,” Mikalatos said.

Nelson doesn’t think you can pinpoint a spike in crime on any one specific group of people.

“I don’t think we can pinpoint any particular type of people or Washingtonians as opposed to whoever that might be coming in,” Nelson said. “How I feel is, I would hate to pinpoint anyone and say no, don’t come in, you guys are unruly. We don’t want you. I’ve lived here a good long time. I love Washington. I go into Washington, and I’d hope I would never be banned from Washington or made to feel like I’m not welcome there.”

Sunset Bar sees about 20% of its patrons come from Washington. Both owners are grateful for the business after Covid closures.

“When we re-opened and began getting slowly back into it, we did see the Washington people, and I was so very grateful and so appreciative to have these people come over,” Nelson said.

“We’re kind of a state that has opened before others, and it’s been rejuvenating to our economy. The businesses here — we need the tourism dollars to exist,” Mikalatos said.

The Corner Bar’s Facebook page is still deactivated, and the bar refused to comment on the situation still today. However, these bars want to move past the tension between borders and move forward as neighbors who fully support and value each other’s business and interactions.

“We are neighbors, and we need to be neighbors, and we need to kind of have each other’s backs — period,” Nelson said.