Two restaurants go into the liquor-licensing arena, only one emerges with a license

Zakim makes rare appearance at licensing hearing in support of Laughing Monk.

The Boston Licensing Board today chose an existing Mission Hill Thai/sushi restaurant for the one liquor license it had over a proposed shaken-seafood place in Roslindale.

Laughing Monk Cafe, 737 Huntington Ave., had a city councilor, a priest from Mission Church, rival restaurant owners and the local Main Street program backing its application at a hearing yesterday, along with several Mission Hill residents. All said owner Dome Nakapakorn had proven himself a valuable member of the community in the eight month's he's been open and that he needed the license to survive and the neighborhood needed the license because of the rapid growth of residential and research and office space around it.

In contrast, Shaking Seafood, 19 Poplar St., which hopes to open in January, had only its attorney's statement that it needed a liquor license because the spicy food it would serve needs something hearty with which to wash it down and because Roslindale residents had proven themselves "respectful towards alcoholic beverages and consumption."

The "neighborhood" all-alcohol license became available after chef Chris Douglass cancelled plans for a restaurant in the former Roslindale Square substation and turned in the license he'd been awarded last year.

These restricted licenses - holders cannot resell them - are supposed to be reused in the neighborhoods where they were granted, but only if the holders actually use them. Since Douglass never opened the doors of his restaurant, the board could award the license to anybody in Dorchester, Mattapan or Roxbury or in any of Boston's "main street" districts, including the Mission Hill district Laughing Monk is in. The board long ago doled out the remaining 74 licenses the state legislature deigned to grant Boston several years ago, largely to try to encourage new restaurants in the city's outer neighborhoods.

Among those who attended the Laughing Monk hearing was City Councilor Josh Zakim, making just his second appearance before the board in his four years in office. Normally, city councilors who want to support a restaurant dispatch an aide.

Also speaking in support of the 34-seat restaurant was Father Philip Dabney of Mission Church, who said he and other priests at the church love the restaurant's food. Dabney was joined in testimony by his brother, in from Seattle, who said that as a Seattle resident, he knows good Thai food and that Laughing Monk is "one of the best restaurants I've ever been to."

Owners of two nearby restaurants also supported the bid, saying Nakapakorn has given generously of his time and food for local events.

Richard Rouse, executive director of Mission Hill Main Streets, said Mission Hill restaurants are in a precarious position, because the demand for ground-floor space is so high these days that they have trouble making ends meet. But without restaurants like the Laughing Monk, he said, Mission Hill would have trouble staying the sort of residential neighborhood it is now.

In contrast, nobody from Rouse's counterpart group in Roslindale attended the Shaking Seafood hearing; nor did anybody from City Councilor Tim McCarthy's office.

The mayor's office supported both proposals.

Police continuing to hunt suspect for Harbor Point murder

Boston Police are asking for help to find Marquis Martin, 28, wanted on charges he shot David Cole to death on Peninsula Place in the Harbor Point complex on Oct. 29.

Martin, described as "armed and dangerous," is 5'7" and weighs 170 lbs., police say.

If you know where he is, contact homicide detectives at 617-343-4470 or the anonymous tip line by calling 800-494-TIPS or texting TIP to CRIME (27463).

Innocent, etc.

Some drug users to get second chance if arrested in Dorchester or Mattapan

Substance abusers arrested in areas served by Dorchester Municipal Court will get a chance to enter a treatment program that, if they get through, would mean their charges would be struck without being put on their records.

The pilot diversion program, which is aimed at "low level" users, not traffickers, is a joint effort by the Suffolk County District Attorney's office, Boston Police, the court and the Gavin Foundation - which will fund the community-base three-to-six month treatment program. In a statement, DA Dan Conley said:

Beginning next month, if members of the Boston Police find someone in simple possession of a controlled substance who presents no other apparent risk to public safety, they’ll assess that person for substance dependence or addiction. If the person meets some basic criteria, they won’t make an arrest. Instead, they’ll issue a summons for that person to appear in court. In many cases, Boston Police already opt to issue summonses instead of making arrests, but Road to Recovery summonses will be for the very next day instead of several weeks later, allowing us to strike while the iron is hot and there’s still an incentive to seek treatment.

Defendants who complete their treatment plans, which will include everything from detox to counseling, will have their possession charge ripped up before it gets on their record. If they don't complete their treatment, though, they'll then face court action.

According to the DA's office, more than 70% of the low-level drug-possession charges it handles are continued without a finding, dismissed outright or result in the people charged being placed on pre-trial probation. None of these involve convictions - but also not any treatment

As a result, they don’t address the underlying issue or divert defendants from further contact with the criminal justice system – they merely defer it until the next case.

The diversion program begins Jan. 2.

Many Boston high-school students will get to sleep in a bit later next year

WBUR reports the Boston School Committee voted last night to change start and end times for Boston schools, with the goal of getting high-schools to school later, elementary students out of school earlier and to tie the whole thing into the school-bus schedules a team at MIT has been drawing up. Members of that team were supposed to work overnight to get the new schedules ready for public release today.