A Kennewick party bus service has been fined $25,000 for illegal operations.
The penalty is the result of a state Utilities and Transportation Commission crackdown on illegal party buses in recent years.
The commission fined A-plus Pacific Limousine after concluding the company was operating as a charter carrier without a permit and had violated advertising regulations five times.
In November, the company failed to appear at a hearing before an administrative law judge, who issued a default order imposing the maximum penalty of $25,000.
Party bus companies must have a permit from the state commission and are required to meet minimum insurance standards, pass regular safety inspections on their vehicles, and perform drug and alcohol testing on their drivers.
A website for A-plus Pacific Limousine has been mostly taken down. A call to one of the booking numbers still visible on one page of the website was answered by a man who said the company had folded. The state issued a business license for the company in 2005 and listed Aleksandr Polyukh as president and director.
Party buses usually have seats along the sides of a bus and allow people to move around. Passengers may bring alcohol on board.
The state has been vigilant about regulating party buses since a 2012 accident in neighboring Oregon. An 11-year-old girl died after falling out of the emergency window of a moving bus.
The Washington state commission conducted a study of the growing party bus industry and found that nationwide, more than a dozen people had been killed and others injured on board party buses. Many of the incidents were blamed on alcohol use.
Party buses not only take passengers to and from a destination or for a ride, but typically have seats running the length of the bus to allow people to move around and sometimes dance in the center.
The party buses prevent drinking and driving, but the state commission is concerned that alcohol on board the buses can lead to underage drinking and increase risky behavior.
Washington state legislation was passed in 2015 that removed an exemption for party buses operating only in city limits to make them subject to state commission regulations and permitting requirements.
It also strengthened the law, including requirements related to how alcohol may be served. The new law allows party bus operators to end trips early if passengers violate liquor laws.
In the case of A-plus Pacific Limousine, the commission found that despite not having a permit, the company was advertising party bus services on at least three websites, saying it had space for 20 passengers, storage for 26 boxes of wine, coolers and a premium sound system.
The company offered six hours of party bus services for $805 twice to commission staff who called posing as consumers.
Three times, from fall 2015 through spring 2016, commission staff sent letters to the company offering technical assistance but received no response, according to legal documents.