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Lavender Owner Appears Before Selectmen to Discuss Controversy

Tim Fong chooses his words carefully as he describes the events at his restaurant on May 9.

Tim Fong, owner of on Boston Post Road, appeared at Tuesday night's meeting of Sudbury's Board of Selectmen at Town Hall to discuss the controversy that's been raging through Sudbury for two months.

Various town officials stand accused of staying at the restaurant past the hours specified on its liquor license following Town Meeting on May 9. Concerned residents have wondered whether officials abused their positions by demanding service from an establishment in violation of a liquor license that the officials themselves are in charge of approving.

Chairman Larry O'Brien, who previously admitted to being at Lavender past the stated hours, recused himself from the meeting before any discussion of the Lavender case began, He previously

Tim Fong was accompanied at the meeting by his attorney, Stephen Grande, who occasionally intercepted questions directed at Fong.

"We had the early crowd come in to watch the Red Sox, and many stayed to watch the basketball playoff games," said Fong, who said that his understanding was that he was allowed to serve alcohol until 1 a.m. that night. He said Lavender normally closes at 10 p.m., but is allowed to stay open until 1 a.m. during special events, which include sports games, such as the basketball playoffs.

He described the timeline of events, which he said included a last call at 12:45 a.m. He said by 1:10, staff members were still finalizing bills for customers.

"I lost track of time," Fong said, describing several interruptions by various people, including two police officers who arrived at about 1:10 a.m. "It turned out that time was moving faster than I realized."

He said earlier that evening, he turned down a woman's request to be served because it was clear that she had already had too much to drink and should not consume additional alcohol.

It is her third OUI case, which has caused concern among residents who worry that the town could be held liable for any future accidents.

"It was a private party but it was open to the public," Fong said, in response to a question about whether the gathering in his business on May 9 constituted a private party. His attorney said Fong did tell the intoxicated woman "this is a private party" as an excuse to get her to leave.

Fong described a scene in which patrons were taking their time in leaving as the restaurant was ready to close for the night.

"I didn't want to be rude about it, and say, 'Hey, get up,'" Fong said, as he described several polite attempts encouraging patrons to move along a little faster. He said as a business, Lavender couldn’t afford to be discourteous to customers.

Grande objected to the meeting being open to questions and comments from the public, noting that it would be unusual for a business owner to be subject to public interrogation at an official meeting.

"They're not addressing any questions to Mr. Fong, they're addressing them to me," said Selectman Bob Haarde, who took over as chairman after O'Brien recused himself and left the room. "I'll give him the option of answering questions, but he can decline."

Fong answered a question from a resident about whether he had spoken with O'Brien "to get their stories straight" by saying he had not. He said that since Lavender is public, O'Brien could go there anytime he chooses.

"We might have talked about his daughter's party or his son's graduation, but we did not talk anything specific about this," he said.

"I've had people come to me and say they saw Fong and O'Brien talking in the parking lot the next day," said resident Bob Stein, who's been outspoken on the case that's become known as "LavenderGate."

"In the 50 years I've lived in Sudbury I've never seen anything as contentious as this," said resident Susan Bistany. "There are people screaming for resignations, while other people are saying let's just forget the whole thing. At this point, I don't see where we are going from here."

Enuff July 11, 2012 at 12:29 PM
"It was a private party but open to the public". Now that is some real transparency! What exactly does that mean? Drobinski seems to think public discussion is illegal (more transparency). There is no written legal opinion indicating O'Brien needs to recuse himself (more transparency). Nobody has any paperwork indicating Lavender requested to stay open until 2:00am the night before Thanksgiving, yet Town Manager consistently gets outstanding performance reviews. Chips and noodles being served while the tap is flowing. What happened to open kitchen while serving alcohol? O'Brien at the door well after hours saying "Can I help you?" Yeah Larry, can I have a pu pu for two and a Lo Mein to go. It is time for serious change in Sudbury. This is a three ring circus.
Edward Stark July 11, 2012 at 03:27 PM
This isn't going away until Larry resigns. If he really cares about Sudbury he would do the right thing. One another note what's up with town council? Isn't public speaking a prerequisite for being a lawyer? Not sure if my TV is on the fritz but I couldn't make out a word he spoke last night. For $90,000 a year (4 hours a week) can't we do better? That's over $400 an hour! We should be able to get Alan Dershowitz for that kind of money! I mean who hired this guy and signed him to a 3 year contract? That's the real question here. What a disaster this town has become. This is what happens when you keep electing the same people over and over. They get comfortable and guess who suffers?
Karyn July 11, 2012 at 06:39 PM
I cannot believe that you grownups are acting like teenagers. Actually I know many teenagers that have more class than you all do. This is ridiculous. You people definately have too much time on your hands to be throwing all these negative comments around and not having any facts to back them up. I am mortified that this is the example being set for our children that it is ok to slander people and make up stories and then post them on this site. If you caught your children writing inappropriately on facebook would you just let them get away with it, obviously you would let your children do whatever they wanted to without any discretion. I am appalled that this is our adult community talking like this and using racial slander to describe the wonderful employees that work at Lavenders. The fact that you don't even use your correct names tells me alot about you anyways!!!!!!!!!!!!
SueChap July 11, 2012 at 09:15 PM
A bit off on the reporting, although appreciations to the Patch for the coverage. Susan Bistany continued that it would appear the next step would be for O'Brien to resign the chairmanship. I watched the meeting and my opinion, as anonymous as it is, is summarized by stating, O'Brien used (abused according to response of Fong) his position to gain atypical access to the establishment. O'Brien recused (recoosed according to Kenney) himself, though noone seems to know why. This basically was an avoidance tactic. And until the very end of the meeting, Drobinski is a weak leader. At the very end, and some nudging by resident Hogan, who should be commended, Drobinski advised to just move on and brush the whole darn thing under the rug. Could we call it LavendarRug? perhaps its scent would be soothing and relaxing!
SkimThreePercent July 11, 2012 at 09:25 PM
Well my earlier comment has been taken down because blogger "Karyn" thought I made a racist comment. "Forget about it Jake, this is Chinatown" happens to be one of the most famous lines ever from a Hollywood film of the same name directed by Roman Polanski. Nothing racist about a reference to a line in a film. Very dark film about corruption and weird stuff going on in Los Angeles over water diversion from upstate to the desert. Polanski's wife was murdered by the Manson family and his parents were exterminated by the Nazi's. Before you go off censoring comments, think first. Yes, Sudbury's problems are less troublesome than other atrocities, crime and corruption throughout history. But we need transparency and free speech to keep it a worthwhile place to live and that is not happening in part because of the Larry and his pals.
Rob July 11, 2012 at 09:34 PM
I quoted Casablanca famous lines and substituted the names for Larry and Tim and gambling for alcohol. It was also taken down. Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds? Renault: I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here. Employee of Rick's: [hands Renault money] Your winnings, sir. Renault: Oh, thank you, very much. Everybody out at once!
Rob July 11, 2012 at 09:35 PM
the moderators need to put away their jackboots...
Erich Waible July 11, 2012 at 09:36 PM
I'm glad Mr. Fong came down to answer questions and I hope the people are satisfied with his appearence. Where the town and the voters go from here I have no idea. What I do know it is time for change in all of our Government, top to bottom, and it is high time that everyone who is elected, appointed or hired to work for this great town of Sudbury understands you answer to the Voters, period. No one is above any rules or laws here nor can they not answer to us, the voting public.
SkimThreePercent July 11, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Yes, sometimes you have to speak in code or use obscure references as metaphors to navigate through the Orwellian maze that IS Sudbury. I find I can no longer make reference to Five-0 as this offends BOTH Larry and the "heat". Very similar to the former Soviet Union during the Cold War. Fucci is cool, the other one forget about it.

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