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Fields Corner pho place in hot water over late-night dining, karaoke

The Boston Licensing Board decides Thursday whether to punish Pho So 1, 223 Adams St., for repeatedly staying open past its 10 p.m. closing time.

The board today heard details of police citations for incidents on Aug. 29 and Sept. 2. That's in addition to a similar incident in May and yet another incident on Sept. 16.

On Aug. 29, detectives found the restaurant still occupied at 12:10 a.m., karaoke going and patrons enjoying fresh bottles of beer. On a return visit on Sept. 2., Sgt. Det. Robert Mulvey said, detectives found the same situation, only this time, they had to call on help from uniformed C-11 officers when a belligerent patron not only refused to leave but began to argue with the detectives.

Mulvey added that in addition to staying open past its legal closing time, the restaurant did not have a license for the karaoke - yes, of course, karaoke requires a license in Boston.

The restaurant's lawyer, Marco Beatrice, told the board it's all just a big ol' cultural misunderstanding between Vietnamese friendship and family customs and Boston licensing requirements - to which the restaurant, he acknowledged had agreed.

In Vietnam, restaurant owners and workers and their families all partake of after-hours relaxation at each other's restaurants, Beatrice said. Owner Hoang Anh Nguyen, whose English is not the best, just didn't understand you couldn't lock the doors, turn off the signs and let family and friends enjoy themselves after closing time, Beatrice said.

"They're not paying customers for the most part," he said.

Still, he said he had impressed the importance of complying with local licensing requirements - including the closing time Nguyen had agreed to - and that Nguyen will not do that again, even at the risk of offending family members and friends. He added that the restaurant has had no other types of violations, has been named the best pho place in Boston by the Globe and has a petition signed by 20 neighboring businesses in support.

Board Chairwoman Christine Pulgini said she appreciated the lawyer's defense, but said the restaurant's repeatedly being caught open way too late "is not good; that's not good at all."

Mulvey said he was getting fed up with the violations as well. He said that during the Sept. 2 incident, the belligerent customer hurled insults - in English - that he said he didn't want to repeat, and that once he started in with the insults, Nguyen grew increasingly belligerent as well. He added that he and a fellow licensing detective normally don't have to seek help from uniformed officers to shut down a restaurant in violation of its license.

The board could find no violation, issue a warning or suspend the restaurant's license for a set number of days.

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Comments

Friends don't let friends drink and karaoke.

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I believe the state alcoholic beverages law requires cities and towns to allow licensees to be open until at least 11 pm.

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For the same reason that Boston's liquor licenses are doled out differently than the rest of the state.

In any case, a restaurant can apply for a later closing time, because, yes, 10 p.m. does seem a bit early for a place with a beer and wine license. Whether the board would look favorably on a request from a place that is now charged with violating its own license requirement four times in a few months, though, is another matter.

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But I'm siding with the board. For Chrissakes, you (expletive), "language barrier" was the best you could come up with? "It's cultural tradition" was the best you could come up with? Sorry, guy, "I'm serving my friends and family" doesn't square with "the belligerent patron refused to leave."

Now, I won't tell the guy to go back to his home country as cited above, since:

1) Gaffin won't let me go after anybody's nationality in the comments and

2) A recent talk with a friend made me realize that telling somebody to "go back to (blank)" is not consistent with my beliefs that state and national borders in the 21st century are an arbitrary joke, and is thus a disingenuous thing for me to say.

So I guess my swipe in this case (and going forward) is "go live somewhere else."

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Is this restaurant under new ownership or something? Because Pho So 1 has been open for well over a decade - plenty of time for the owner to (A) learn more English and (B) learn the strange customs and laws of his new home.

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Long story short, a restaurant owner from a former dictatorship didn't realize that the Land of the Free requires a license for karaoke.

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Eww. I promise I'm not turning into a big government dominion liberal.

Karaoke makes noise, and I like to see an official acknowledgement (which takes its form here in a license) that "hey, this business endeavors to be maybe loud late at night after some people have gone to bed, but the business agrees to mitigate that."

Now, if there's a finite number of licenses for karaoke (which I doubt), then there's a problem.

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I'm a Progressive Liberal bordering on European-style Democratic-Socialist who thinks licensing for karaoke is excessive, so maybe it's time to rethink your stance? If noise is your problem, it's already illegal to make too much noise.

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