BY TOM DALTON STAFF WRITER
The Salem News
---- — SALEM — They will be turning the music off early at Bangkok Paradise, a Washington Street restaurant linked by police to late-night trouble in the downtown.
The Licensing Board yesterday ordered a six-month rollback of the restaurant’s entertainment license from 12:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. after finding DJs and dancing contributed to the large crowds that police allege have been fighting in the streets and causing other disturbances.
Bangkok Paradise will remain open and its hours of operation unchanged. The new entertainment hours begin on Thursday.
In a separate case, the establishment was given a warning on an allegation of serving a minor on Sept. 1.
A lawyer for Bangkok Paradise owner Jesus Franco said the restaurant has already taken steps to curb the problems by hiring an extra doorman, acquiring a machine to check identification cards and implementing a new plan for dispersing large crowds.
“Mr. Franco is going to do everything he can to create a fun, safe environment,” attorney J.P. Story of Salem said after the hearing.
During yesterday’s hearing, a continuation of an Oct. 9 meeting, Story said he felt his client was being unfairly blamed for a number of recent downtown incidents at closing time.
In a report, Detective Sgt. James Page cited 18 police calls to Bangkok Paradise or areas nearby between February and Oct. 1. Some were minor, while others involved large crowds fighting, multiple arrests and a stabbing. The most serious incidents took place outside the restaurant.
“Mr. Franco ... is not responsible for the whole city of Salem,” Story said. “There are many bars down here ... and there are college students from Salem State.”
When Chairman Robert St. Pierre, the retired Salem police chief and the former interim chief at Salem State, challenged him on linking Salem State students to the troubles, Story conceded he was just giving an example of the variety of young people who could be downtown at night.
In his report, Page pointed to “promoters” posting notices on social medial sites about “Vibe Wednesdays” and other events and, in one instance, sending out more than 10,000 “invitations.”
Story said he felt the detective had misinterpreted the posting, and that only a small number who received the notice indicated they planned to go. And, whatever the total, he said the restaurant did not exceed its legal capacity of 150.
The Facebook postings, Story said, were “no different than advertising in the newspaper. ... This is what technology is these days, and this is how people communicate ...”
Board member Rick Lee said he thought the Internet notices were bringing in the wrong element.
“People that are coming here are hostile, combative,” he said. “They’re fighting with police officers. These are the people we don’t want in our city.”
As evidence of a problem, St. Pierre pointed to Franco’s admission that his staff sometimes “pats down” patrons upon entering, and once found someone with a knife.
“The whole thing is already getting out of control,” St. Pierre said.
In taking the action it did, the board said it was trying to be consistent with punishment imposed recently at other downtown bars. They warned that the restaurant could face stronger penalties for future incidents.
After the hearing, Page told the board that Bangkok Paradise will be back for another hearing in a few weeks on a new allegation of serving a minor.
Tom Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.