The Boston Licensing Board yesterday slapped Pho So 1, 223 Adams St., with a three-day suspension for staying open way past its 10 p.m. closing time on two days in August and September.
The restaurant faces another possible three-day suspension for a third-late night citation in September. The board has yet to hold a hearing on that incident.
At a hearing on Tuesday, a restaurant lawyer said owner Hoang Anh Nguyen didn't understand that the 10 p.m. closing time applied to family and friends as well as paying customers and that there was a cultural misunderstanding between restaurant practices in Vietnam - where family and friends of a restaurant owner gather for after-hours relaxation. Nguyen was also cited for the karaoke system Boston Police detectives found on visits around midnight, because he doesn't have a city license for it.
But board members did not buy the cultural misunderstanding argument - or another argument that Nguyen's English wasn't that good.
They said that Nguyen had been before the board earlier in the year for the same violation. "He gave no understanding [then] that he didn't understand us," board member Liam Curran said.
Under the board's rules, similar citations incur an extra day for each occurrence. So the restaurant had its license suspended for one day for the August violation and two for the September one. Should the board find the restaurant in violation for the next September case, it would get a three-day suspension.