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Controversial Vietnamese restaurant on Dot Ave. tries again for license

For the second time in three months, Nhung Nguyen went before the Boston Licensing Board for permission to reopen her VN Express Cafe at 1616 Dot. Ave.

This time, however, she appeared without her husband, Khanh, who was the reason the board rejected her application to serve food in August, citing both illegal gambling at the Chinese restaurant that used to be there - when Khanh Nguyen worked there - and his inability to completely own up to a criminal past that included a conviction on gun charges in the early 1990s.

Nhung Nguyen told the board this morning her husband no longer has anything to do with her planned restaurant and that he's now working in construction.

City officials, however, expressed skepticism and again opposed the application, at least until after Nhung Nguyen appears before the St. Mark's Neighborhood Association to put the neighborhood at ease.

City Councilors Frank Baker and Charles Yancey both opposed the license, with an aide to Yancey saying the application seemed a bit of "bait and switch." The St. Mark's Neighborhood Assocation asked the board to defer any action until after Nguyen could meet with it.

Capt. Richard Sexton of District C-11 told the board that while he does not want to paint Nhung Nguyen with "a broad brush," he said the fact that her husband has had law-enforcement issues means things "are too close for comfort." He said he would be especially concerned about the potential return of gambling to the location. "It's very important we don't have any of that going on," he said.

The licensing board decides Thursday whether to grant Nguyen a license, reject her request or defer it until after hearing from the neighborhood association.

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Comments

I live very close to the building that used to be China Pagoda carryout & was briefly VN Cafe earlier this year at the corner of Dot Ave & Dix St. In the past few months, this seemingly abandoned business has started to attract sketchy people (loudass drunks, pimps & hos, junkies) in the parking lot after hours, so I wish that somebody would do something at this address. At this point, I don't really care what goes in there (Vietnamese carryout? Starbucks? Yet another Dunks? whatever). As far as I'm concerned, they can knock the damn thing down & build condos. But Boston being Boston, it will probably sit empty for a few years while the city council pick their asses and study it's potential fate. The people who ran it briefly as VN Cafe seemed nice enough. For them to be denied the right to attempt to start a business in Boston (you would have to have a screw or two loose to try that in the first place with all of the red tape small businesspersons have to deal with here) because the husband got busted with an 8-ball back in the first Clinton administration is pathetic.

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Exactly. Let's lament the state of minorities in the city, but then when someone who had previous trouble with the law seemingly tries to turn things around and open a small business of his own with his wife who has never been in trouble--we can't have that! Criminal for life!

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But I've been going to licensing hearings for years now and they almost never reject a request for a food serving license. And BPD almost never shows up at such hearings.

In addition to the guy's criminal past (more specifically, not his record but his not coming clean with the board about it; maybe it's just me, but I don't think I'd forget being convicted on gun charges), it's also about the gambling that took place while he worked there when it was a Chinese restaurant.

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At least when they were gambling in there at night back when it used to be China Pagoda I could get a good night's sleep without having to deal with insane/heavily inebriated people yelling at their dead relatives or wanna-be Iceburg Slims putting the smack down on their hos in the parking lot at 3:00 am on a Tuesday morning. I don't want to post my exact address on U-Hub, but take my word, I live close enough to China Pagoda/VN Cafe that sketchy activity in their parking lot wakes me up on work nights at least a few nights a week. I have called the cops at least a couple times, but if you actually think they give a rat's ass I'll give you a great price on the Bourne Bridge. These circumstances reinforce my steadfast belief that if you have done your time and paid your debt to society, you shouldn't have to deal with this much BS to get a license from the city to open a small business. I mean, what was the point of even asking the VN Cafe guy about his criminal past? As far as I'm concerned, if you want to open a business, you should go down to city hall, pay a licensing fee, get your license, open up shop and let the free market decide your fate after that.

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The original story said "Nguyen worked at China Pagoda when it was cited for illegal gambling in March."

So IOW, in addition to being punished for something that he did 20+ years ago, he's being punished for something his co-workers or employer did. Guilt by association.

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I'd rather have a bunch of middle aged and elderly men playing card and/or dice games late at night behind the locked doors of the China Pagoda or have the VN Cafe managed by some guy who used to work for the old gamblers, even if he has a 20+ year old coke and/or gun rap on his CORI then have an empty, neglected building with a gnarly parking lot that attracts some of the absolute sketchiest people in Dorchester any day of the week.

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Is it me or does BPD seems to have a thing against Vietnamese people lately?

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Capt. Sexton did not drive downtown to oppose Pho Le's request for a liquor license.

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