By Bethany Bray STAFF WRITER
The Salem News
---- — The Police Department’s entire shift responded to the Bangkok Paradise restaurant around 1 a.m. Sept. 1, as several fights erupted and a crowd of roughly 100 people spilled onto Washington Street.
The out-of-control scene was described by several officers to the city’s Licensing Board last night, as the restaurant’s owner, Jesus Franco, came before the board for a charge of serving alcohol to an underage patron.
“It took us quite a bit of time to get the crowd under control,” Sgt. Richard Gagnon said. “... Traffic (on Washington Street) was pretty much blocked.”
Franco’s attorney, J.P. Story, assured the board that Franco is “on high alert.”
“... (He’s) taking steps to ensure that if this did happen (on Sept. 1), it won’t happen again,” Story said.
The Licensing Board took no action against Bangkok Paradise last night, postponing its decision until Oct. 15, when Franco will come before the board for a separate complaint regarding the restaurant’s entertainment license.
“This does not mean that you are free and clear,” board member John Casey told Franco. “We expect you to make changes immediately. ... Tonight is a lesson for you in modification of your business practices.”
Police arrested four people outside Bangkok Paradise in the early hours of Sept. 1, charging them with disorderly conduct. One of those arrested, a 20-year-old from Brookline, told police she had been served two beers at Bangkok Paradise.
“When we have to send the entire shift to one location, we are overwhelmed,” police Chief Paul Tucker told the Licensing Board. “It leaves the rest of the city bare, and I can’t let that stand.”
Bangkok Paradise, at 90 Washington St., is next to the Red Lion Smoke Shop. Franco took over the restaurant in January.
Police have responded to numerous complaints in the area of the restaurant recently, including a stabbing last week.
Capt. Brian Gilligan described the crowds that gather outside Bangkok Paradise, especially on Friday nights, as “noncompliant, belligerent and bordering on violent, consistently.”
Gilligan said he observed two separate fights between restaurant patrons begin inside Bangkok Paradise and spill out onto the street on Sept. 1. Officer James Johnson said police had to pull apart two of the women who were fighting, one of whom was throwing punches at the restaurant’s bouncer.
Johnson said the crowd was roughly 100 people, some of whom refused to disperse.
Franco had “taken all the steps he could take” to keep order on Sept. 1, Story said. Earlier in the evening, event promoters at the restaurant had told police a large party would be leaving at closing time.
Bangkok Paradise has up to four doormen working late at night, Story said: Two check IDs at the front door, and the rest circulate through the restaurant, keeping an eye on patrons.
Franco is also looking into purchasing a mechanized scanner system to check IDs, Story said.
Casey advised Franco to purchase an ID reader and start using it immediately, even this weekend.
“You realize we have 10,500 (college) students in this town,” Casey said.
Bangkok Paradise stops serving food at 10 p.m., Franco said. Drinks are served until after midnight; all patrons must exit the building by 12:45 a.m.
A bouncer’s job “doesn’t stop at the door,” said Licensing Board member Richard Lee. It’s the restaurant’s responsibility to make sure patrons disperse, he said.
“Your license is at stake,” Lee said to Franco.
Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.