Two Dorchester Avenue restaurants face possible sanctions over beer-drinking patrons

Two Vietnamese restaurants on Dorchester Avenue that don't have liquor licenses were cited by police detectives, who say they found patrons drinking beer out of tea cups last month.

On Wednesday, meanwhile, the City Council could vote on a proposal by Councilors Michelle Wu and Steve Murphy to let small restaurants in neighborhoods such as Dorchester legally let their customers bring in their own beer and wine. BYOB is currently illegal in Boston.

That measure, however, would come too late to help Thao Ngoc Restaurant, 1331 Dorchester Ave. and Tri Seafood Restaurant, 1616 Dorchester Ave.

A BPD detective and a licensing-board member both declared themselves "dumbfounded" at a Tuesday hearing that detectives caught patrons at Thao Ngoc drinking beer from stainless-steel teapots on Nov. 14, because that was the third time since August the restaurant has been cited.

Restaurant attorney Paul Gardner of Needham apologized, said the restaurant has put up a sign warning against BYOB and pleaded for leniency because the owner is just 28 and has only owned the restaurant since July 1.

Board member Keeanna Saxon, however, said that there's really not much of a learning curve in understanding that restaurants without alcohol licenses aren't supposed to let customers drink alcohol. That the beer was in teapots was "particularly deceptive," she said. She added she was also disturbed by another police citation for having a rear emergency exit blocked.

Tri Seafood attorney Carolyn Conway apologized profusely for that restaurant's second such violation - the same night. In addition to its owners, she came with the customer who snuck in a bottle of beer in his jacket, poured it into tea cups for himself and his dining companion, then brought the bottle outside to his car. The customer testified he waited until the waitress wasn't looking, then poured the beer into teacups. Their teapot actually contained hot tea.

"He understands he put us in a very bad situation," she said.

Conway said her clients have already begun meeting with neighbors about applying one of the new beer and wine licenses set aside for neighborhoods such as Dorchester.

In both cases, BPD Sgt. Det. William Mulvey said that he and another licensing detective performed inspections at the restaurants because of neighborhood complaints to District C-11 about possible alcohol consumption on their premises.

The board decides Thursday what action, if any, to take.