SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 23, 2012

Bangkok Paradise remains open after owner's drug arrest

Salem: Licensing Board hearing set for November

By Bethany Bray STAFF WRITER
The Salem News

---- — SALEM — The fate of Bangkok Paradise lies with the Licensing Board, which won’t discuss the troubled eatery until next month.

Until then, the Washington Street restaurant remains open.

“As of right now, there isn’t anything under the law we can do until the next Licensing Board meeting,” police Chief Paul Tucker said yesterday. “We’ll be expecting some action then.”

The owner of Bangkok Paradise, Jesus Franco, was arrested last week and charged with selling hundreds of tablets of oxycodone, an opiate painkiller, at the Washington Street eatery. His arrest came on top of recent complaints by police of unruly crowds, late-night disturbances and violence near the restaurant.

The Licensing Board temporarily revoked Bangkok Paradise’s entertainment license last week, after finding that disc jockeys and dancing contributed to the large crowds that police allege cause late-night fights and disturbances outside the restaurant.

In the wake of Franco’s arrest, Tucker said his department is preparing a complaint against Bangkok Paradise for the Licensing Board’s Nov. 5 meeting — on top of an existing complaint for serving alcohol to a minor.

“This is something that has been a fairly long-term investigation,” he said. “We want to make sure we do everything in the right way.”

Franco, a 42-year-old Salem resident, took over Bangkok Paradise in January. On Friday, he pleaded not guilty to two counts of trafficking oxycodone and was ordered held on $50,000 bail.

If Franco is convicted of drug trafficking, it’s possible that his license to operate Bangkok Paradise would be reviewed by the state’s Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission.

The ABCC can question the “character and fitness” of a license holder, Chandra Allard, ABCC spokesperson, said yesterday.

“Until there’s a final conviction, we won’t take (the charges) into consideration,” Allard said. “If he is found guilty, it doesn’t prohibit him from having a license. But it could come under review by the commission under character and fitness.”

Bangkok Paradise was among the more than 20 Salem restaurants to sign the Chamber of Commerce’s “one strike and you’re out” pledge this fall. Meant to discourage troublemakers, the pledge says anyone arrested or issued a no-trespass order by police at one of the participating restaurants will be prohibited from entering any of the establishments for six months.

The initiative has worked very well so far, said Chamber of Commerce director Rinus Oosthoek. Yesterday, Oosthoek said his organization is taking a “wait and see” approach with Bangkok Paradise.

“It’s something that I think should be addressed immediately. For us, up until the Licensing Board takes action, we have to wait,” Oosthoek said. “... It’s difficult to see how they can operate with one of the owners in jail.”

Franco was among six North Shore men arrested Friday morning in a multi-agency drug investigation. Also arrested was Jason Gentry, who manages Giovanni’s Pizza and Roast Beef on Jefferson Avenue.

Gentry, charged with possession of oxycodone with intent to distribute, also pleaded not guilty last week.

Last week’s drug investigation netted thousands of pills and $50,000 in cash, according to the Essex County district attorney’s office.

Bethany Bray can be reached at bbray@salemnews.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.