Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Panda East’s liquor license suspended for 55 days

(Flickr/Amy Messere)
(Flickr/Amy Messere)

After two and a half hours of discussion at Town Hall Thursday evening, the Amherst Select Board suspended Panda East’s liquor license for 55 days in response to two separate Amherst Police Department reports of minors being served alcohol at the restaurant.

The penalty results from one incident of a 17-year-old high school student being served two scorpion bowls with three of her friends on March 26, and another incident on April 8 when an underage female produced fake identification to get alcohol. Fifteen and 35 days of suspension were given for each incident, respectively.

This is not Panda East’s first offense. The Board issued a two-day suspension of the restaurant’s license in January, after the police department found on Nov. 14 that 17 minors had been served alcohol, with the risk of having to serve an additional five days should it commit another violation within two years. Those five days have been added on to the upcoming suspension.

Thursday’s decision came after a hearing from Panda East’s acting manager Amy Wu and her representative Kristi Bodin, as well as Amherst Police Chief Scott Livingstone and Sergeant Brian Daly.

Livingstone said the police department has been performing frequent compliance checks on Panda East.

“There were some compliance checks done in March that were positive,” he said. “But then we received a complaint on March 26.”

The complaint came from the mother of a 17-year-old girl who had come to Amherst with friends and was served alcohol at Panda East. After leaving the restaurant, the group spent time at the University of Massachusetts and, while leaving campus by bus, the girl became ill. She was transported to Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton and treated for alcohol poisoning.

Bodin argued that there was “no evidence that she was served at Panda East.”

“This is really hearsay, base hearsay,” she said. “There’s nothing substantive that could support a violation.”

Bodin went on to say that Wu has “caught kids bringing alcohol in with them in water bottles,” to which Wu produced three bottles to show the Board.

Livingstone said he spoke with both the girl and her mother by phone.

“The 17-year-old was reluctant to give information,” he said, adding that her mother prompted her to come forward. Consequently, Livingstone said he believes her account to be true.

“I’m very, very concerned about the allegation,” said board member Connie Kruger. “It’s extremely alarming.”

During the second incident on April 8, Daly was conducting ID checks at the restaurant and approached two women sharing a scorpion bowl. One produced an expired Massachusetts license and was found to be of age; the other produced a Rhode Island license, the print on which seemed unusually dull, Daly said.

“As soon as I started talking on the radio, you could just see her body kind of drop,” Daly said of the woman with the Rhode Island license. She then produced her real Massachusetts license, showing that she was underage.

In order to better spot fake licenses, Wu said the business recently invested more than $5,000 in an ID scanner, which works with IDs from all 50 states. Panda East first implemented the scanner on Monday, April 18.

“Every person who asks for a drink and every single ID goes to the ID scanner,” Wu said.

“The scanner was acquired fairly late in the game given the fact of the 17 previous violations earlier in the year,” Board member Andy Steinberg commented.

As a result of the November violation, Panda East employees also participated in a four-hour training session in January that reinforced the policy to check all IDs, Bodin said.

Chair of the Board Alisa Brewer noted that the restaurant has been making progress, but that she “would characterize it as insufficient” given the additional violations.

The typical penalty, according to members of the Board, is a three to five-day suspension following the first violation, a 15 to 20-day suspension following the second violation and revocation of the liquor license after the third incident. After a long debate over the length and date of the suspension, the Board decided on the 55-day suspension, with a separate penalty for each of the three violations over the past few months.

“One of the goals is to see the restaurant come back with a really good compliance plan,” said Steinberg, referencing proper training of staff and improved internal procedures. He added that, “If it ever happens again, the Board will not have much patience.”

Following Thursday’s hearing, Bodin said that she and Wu will consider appealing the decision with the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission.

Shelby Ashline can be reached at [email protected].

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  • B

    BrandonApr 23, 2016 at 11:47 am

    This is ridiculous. I have been to Panda East many times. It’s not the employer not restricting minors drinking. It’s often the minors’ friends who are older than 21 bought the drinks with identification and give to their underage friends. Should we punish those who give the drinks to minors or the eployer? I think it should be those giving drinks to their underage friends!

  • L

    liamApr 22, 2016 at 10:53 am

    LET THE KIDS DRINK god dammit