The End Of A Long Time Trouble Spot
The Tax Man Does What The ABCC Would Not
By William Legault
On arising from my slumber this morning I was intending to write a little something about the zoning situation in Salem. The words were forming in my head. Quilt, mish-mash, and organized chaos were all jockeying for position as a way to best describe what our zoning map represents. Then, after going on-line, I made a sudden, sharp turn and decided that the MBTA fiasco in the Salem Station train tunnel would be the mornings subject.
Well. It turns out that an eventful morning has provoked another change in direction.
At just about 11 A. M. this morning the Massachusetts Department of Revenue seized the business at 118 Washington Street known as Bistro 118. Our sources tell us that $150,000 in back taxes are owed. My guess is that there are other unpaid debts to go along with the taxes.
Bistro 118 opened more than 10 year ago, maybe in 2007 or 2008 as Fresh Taste of Asia. For a few years it was a go-to downtown spot for good Asian plates and excellent sushi. It drew a good afternoon business crowd for dinner and drinks. Somewhere along the line they lost their way and the food and service declined. Many of the issues seemed to have been driven by some very public family problems that the owner was experiencing.
In 2013 it was announced that the old Red Lulu on Lafayette Street would be moving there. This move never happened. Instead a name change from Fresh Taste of Asia to Bistro 118 was made, and “new” owners came in with a French inspired menu. It was actually a good menu. It turned out however, that there were no new owners. The same ownership still held all of the licenses and soon returned under the new name to make a go of it.
Over the last four or five years Bistro became strictly a night club and developed a reputation as a very troublesome place. Underage drinking accusations, accusations of drinks being doctored or “roofied,” assaults and fights taking place inside and outside of the business became common. Very little, if any food was served. It had become strictly a late night weekend drinking spot that drew a crowd seen as questionable at best. The list of complaints and injuries is a long one.
Appearances before the Licensing Board became a regular occurrence. Suspensions were threatened, and then imposed. There were questions as to who actually owned the place. Nothing changed. Midnight on Friday and Saturday regularly featured the Salem Police sitting nearby as closing time neared.
I do not like to celebrate the misfortune of anybody, whether it be for personal or business reasons. I do not celebrate now. But this is long overdue.
On Saturday, January 4th just before midnight I was standing outside of another local spot smoking a cigar (yes I know, tsk, tsk on me) when I and a few others witnessed a patron at Bistro get knocked over the patio chain and then set upon by five or six assailants. It was over in the matter of a minute, after a flurry of punches and kicks were applied as he was face down on the ground. The coup de grâce was a vicious kick to the face with a heavy boot. We called the police. A few others comforted him. The owner came out and told everybody to leave and they laughed at him. After the victim was hauled away on a gurney the Salem Fire Department showed up to hose the blood from the sidewalk. This is just one of the many assaults that have taken place there over the last few years.
We as a city cannot allow these sorts of problems to become a normal occurrence with a local business. It is bad for everybody. We must find a way to deal with issues like this with decisiveness, so that they do not become long terms problems. Our police and licensing board must be empowered to address these kinds of problems as they happen. As things stand now they can’t because of the bureaucracy that exists at the State House and with the Alcohol Beverages Control Commission. Some level of control has to be given to local authorities to close down serious trouble spots before someone gets killed. The appeals process, which allows a spot to remain open even when a pattern of assault, injuries, or other serious issues have occurred needs to change for the purpose of protecting the public.
This business seems to have had nine lives. Let’s hope that this was the last one.