Chau Chow City, 81 Essex St., learns Thursday whether it faces any penalties for an April incident in which detectives say they found four people, at least one under age, drinking alcohol-infused "tea" and playing a drinking game that is illegal in Massachusetts restaurants.
Sgt. Det. Robert Mulvey and Det. William Gallagher told the Boston Licensing Board this morning that when they arrived at the restaurant for a routine inspection shortly before 2:30 a.m. on April 5, they found four young-looking people sitting in an upstairs dining room a worker had told them was closed, at a table holding plastic cups, a liter bottle of Sprite and dice. When a waiter spotted them, they said, he immediately began cleaning up the table and attempted to pour all the cups out in a sink.
But, the detectives said, they managed to grab one of the cups and take a sniff: It reeked of hard liquor.
Chau Chow City lawyer Dennis Quilty pounced: He noted that Gallagher's report specifically mentioned "iced tea" but not "Long Island iced tea," which, as everybody knows is the proper name for a liquored up brownish drink. So he questioned why Gallagher wrote "iced tea" instead of "Long Island iced tea" if he was so sure the liquid in the cup was laced with alcohol. Did the detective test the liquid? No, Gallagher said. "We did not drink it, but we did smell it."
Well, then, Quilty continued, why did the detective just write "iced tea" instead of "Long Island iced tea?" Gallagher responded that "most people" would understand what "iced tea" meant in a report about a restaurant after 2 a.m.
"It's the same thing," Gallagher said.
"It's not the same thing," Quilty retorted.
After the two somehow escaped their is/is not argument, Mulvey said the thing that concerned him most was the near complete lack of cooperation from restaurant staff, from being told initially the upstairs was closed to the waiter pouring evidence down the drain when he saw the detectives.
Quilty and a restaurant manager said the waiter - actually a busboy - barely speaks English. Quilty added he was upstairs to clean up, and that the reason he was cleaning up the table was because it was, in fact, the only one in the entire room that was occupied. He and the manager added the four went upstairs by themselves to wait for a takeout order - nobody downstairs brought them up there.
Mulvey acknowledged he did not cite the restaurant for serving the "iced tea" to the four because he does not know if it did or if they brought their own liquid refreshment. However, he said the restaurant did supply dice for a game of Liar's Dice, which he said is a popular drinking game, but illegal under state regulations in Massachusetts. He said that when he and Gallagher looked near the sink where the waiter was pouring out cups, they spotted "lots of dice."
The manager said the restaurant has since posted warning signs on the stairs about not going up without permission and is having staff keep a more active eye on the space when it's not in use.
The board could decide to take no action, issue a warning or order the restaurant to close for one or more days.