The popular Star Lite Swap Meet has been shut down by the city of Lakewood.
The city revoked the swap meet’s business license Thursday afternoon, citing a concern about public safety, among other issues.
The final straw for the city came April 3, when police were called to the converted drive-in movie property in the 8300 block of South Tacoma Way to investigate reports of a missing 6-year-old girl.
Because of the size of the crowd, they were unable to quickly enter the property, according to City Manager John Caulfield.
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By the time officers made it inside the girl had been found.
“The good news is that the little girl was found,” Caulfield said. “But for the city to sit back and do nothing, with this particular incident we just couldn’t.”
Once inside the swap meet police were told about two more missing children who were unrelated, according to city documents. Those children later were found.
Business owner Hank Bardon said the minute they learned of the missing children swap meet staff made an announcement over the loudspeaker. That resulted in the children being reunited with their parents, he said.
“Police came and they decided there’s a lot of traffic. But damn, there’s a lot of traffic at the Puyallup Fair too,” Bardon said. “There’s missing children at the fair too. This is a normal thing.”
Bardon called the city’s actions an “illegal closure.”
“It’s unreasonable for the city to go out and shut down the business,” he said by phone Thursday night.
The city issued the revocation Thursday to give Bardon the opportunity to go to court Friday (April 8) to request the swap meet be allowed to operate this weekend, Caulfield said.
Bardon countered that the city should have pulled the license Monday, the day after the incident happened and not the end of the week.
“I’m already receiving comments that the city of Lakewood did this on Thursday to make it impossible for the swap meet to happen this weekend,” assistant city manager Dave Bugher said.
“I do appreciate the situation it puts Mr. Bardon in. If we were really trying to be mean and nasty, we would have done it on a Friday afternoon and not a Thursday afternoon.”
Bardon’s attorney Steve Burnham said he plans to file a temporary restraining order against the city Friday and will ask for an injunction so the meet can open this weekend.
Bardon will also have an opportunity to argue his position before the city in an administrative hearing. That hearing is set for 1 p.m. Monday.
This story will be updated Friday.