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March 27, 2013

Restaurant clamps down on crowds

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

A Troy landmark restaurant agreed not to hold outdoor events for the next year, nor special events for the next two years, with the exception of the Chinese New Year celebration, after a Halloween party got out hand in October.

Marshall Chin, manager and owner of the Mon Jin Lau restaurant, which has operated at Maple and Stephenson for nearly 40 years, and attorney Harold Fried appeared before the Troy City Council at a liquor violation hearing at the March 18 meeting.

According to police reports, 500 people were inside the restaurant, which has a legal capacity of 250, and much more than 85 people were in an outdoor tent set up the evening of Oct. 31. Police were initially dispatched to the restaurant Halloween night because of traffic congestion at Stephenson and Maple. The restaurant had requested and been granted a special event permit to serve liquor in the outdoor tent for the Halloween party for a maximum of 85 people.

Police called fire officials for the suspected overcrowding. Assistant City Attorney Julie Quinlan Dufrane told the council that, when fire inspectors arrived at about 11:30 p.m., they tried to enter the restaurant but couldn’t.

Quinlan Dufrane said Chin acknowledged the overcrowded conditions that night and evacuated the restaurant so police and fire officials could do a head count. Alcohol sales stopped so patrons could settle bills and leave the restaurant. This took about an hour, and Chin decided not to reopen that night. Police issued him a misdemeanor citation for overcrowding. He also received a citation for serving and/or allowing intoxicated persons to consume or loiter on the premises.

According to reports, one drunken patron was involved in a fight inside the restaurant and was charged with resisting arrest, and another patron was arrested on possession of marijuana. Both patrons pleaded guilty to the charges.

City officials were also concerned about the large draw to the restaurant on Wednesday nights, promoted as “Shanghai Wednesdays,” and Chin agreed to a number of measures in order that the restaurant’s Class C liquor license remain intact. Council approved the renewal of the Class C license unanimously at the March 18 City Council meeting

The measures include Technique of Alcohol Management training for all staff, hiring a licensed security company to ensure overcrowding does not occur, controlling valet parking so that traffic does not back up on Maple or Stephenson, and not requesting any permits for special events for one year or outdoor service events for two years. The exception is the Chinese New Year celebration.

“I’ve been going to the Mon Jin Lau for 40 years. They understand these things,” Fried told the council. “They are not looking to make excuses. They take great pride in serving wonderful food. People from all over the state come to them.”

City Attorney Lori Grigg Bluhm said restaurant representatives would appear in front of the council for review of the Class C liquor license whether they were issued any violations over the next year or not.

“They have been a part of this community for 40 years,” Mayor Dane Slater said. “The attorneys were able to come to an agreement. … I’m giving the Mon Jin Lau another chance.” 

“We’re not a nightclub. We’re a fine restaurant,” Chin told the council.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Terry Oparka at toparka@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1054.