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Amherst Select Board suspends Panda East’s liquor license for two days

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(Flickr/Amy Messere)

(Flickr/Amy Messere)

The Amherst Select Board suspended the liquor license of Panda East, a popular downtown restaurant for college students, Monday night in response to an Amherst Police Department report that found 17 minors were served or consumed alcohol at the establishment.

The Board, which also acts as Amherst’s Liquor License Commission, issued a two-day suspension of Panda East’s license for Jan. 25 and 26 at the conclusion of a hearing on the issue held at Town Hall. The restaurant has the option to appeal the decision within five business days.

The hearing lasted approximately 45 minutes and included testimony from Panda East representatives, Amherst Police Chief Scott Livingstone and officer Nicholas Chandler, who filed the initial report.

Chandler arrived at Panda East to perform a liquor compliance check on Nov. 14 after a customer called APD to complain of “minors being openly served alcoholic beverages lacking proper identification,” per his report to APD sergeant Richard Maclean.

Upon his arrival, Chandler wrote that he observed an unusually high amount of Scorpion Bowls being served and a large amount of college students “vacate” the restaurant when he entered. He identified most of the students served were from the University of Massachusetts and that many lacked identification.

Chandler identified 17 minors who had been served or consumed alcohol.

“It was uniform they were never asked for identification (by wait staff),” Chandler said at Monday’s hearing.

Amy Wu, the restaurant’s acting manager, confirmed the accuracy of the report at Monday’s hearing. Wu, who took over as manager in September in place of former manager and current owner Isaac Chow, said the restaurant took responsibility for the incident, which is Panda East’s first liquor license compliance violation.

She said Panda East’s entire wait staff was required to perform mandatory “Serve Safe” training eight days after the incident, which focused on how to properly serve liquor.

Livingstone initially requested the board hold this hearing. He said this is the first time “something of this nature” has appeared for the board during his time as Amherst’s police chief.

Livingstone recommended the Board suspend Panda East’s license for either one or two days. The board ultimately issued a seven-day suspension, with Panda East having to serve two days on Jan. 25 and 26, which is a Monday and Tuesday. If the restaurant commits any other violations over a two-year period, it risks having to serve up to five more days of its suspension.

Board member Andrew Steinberg noted that the Board considered Panda East’s 17-count violation a “very serious” offense as it continues to attempt to combat underage drinking in Amherst. But it the Board also acknowledged that Panda East’s immediate training efforts and lack of prior violations were taken into account when determining a punishment.

Mark Chiarelli can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli.

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