Kowloon receives recommendations, but no punishment, for Thanksgiving Eve fight

Local News

Four people, including two underage drinkers, were involved in a chaotic brawl last November inside Kowloon.

The Kowloon Restaurant overlooking Route 1 in Saugus. Josh Reynolds/The Boston Globe

Saugus officials determined last week that the iconic Kowloon restaurant will not face punishment for a violent brawl that broke out there last November.

After an hour-long hearing solely focused on the incident, The Saugus Board of Selectmen unanimously passed a motion containing recommendations for Kowloon management to take to avoid similar situations in the future. The restaurant’s liquor license will not be rescinded. 

The fight occurred on the night before Thanksgiving, when hundreds flock to the popular Asian restaurant on Route 1.

The selectmen recommended that Kowloon work directly with Saugus Police to determine the right number of police details for Thanksgiving Eve, that it work with the Saugus Fire Department to determine the proper number of fire personnel to have on hand, that it work with the Inspectional Services Department to better determine capacity for individual rooms, and that it purchase and use a professional ID scanner.

Selectmen heard testimony from police officers and Bobby Wong, co-owner of Kowloon. Afterwards, multiple members told Wong that he has their support.

“We know you’re going to do whatever you think is in the best interest, and agree to whatever the chief and fire department recommends. That’s never been an issue,” Board Member Jeff Cicolini said. “Everybody on this board knows your family’s name and legacy is more important to you than anything. I have all the confidence in the world that you’ll be able to do everything in your power to try to make sure that this doesn’t happen in the future.”

Four people faced criminal charges for their roles in the altercation at Kowloon: a 35-year-old, a 32-year-old, and two 19-year-olds. One woman was accused of hitting another person with a bottle. That alleged attack was purportedly captured on video posted to social media afterwards.

The fight seemed to break out after the two 19-year-olds and an older couple exchanged words, but the specific cause of the dispute remained unclear during the investigation, police told selectmen. It occurred at the restaurant’s main bar, the Hong Kong lounge.

The 19-year-old who was allegedly hit with the bottle was questioned by police outside as he was bleeding, Lt. Shawn Flynn testified.

The restaurant was so crowded that police had difficulty communicating with each other via radio, Flynn said. This prompted a large response from law enforcement, which included State Police troopers.

Cicolini noted that the most aggressive behavior appeared to come from the older people involved.

“Sometimes, the most out of control people can be the more senior people in an altercation,” he said.

A lawyer for the woman charged with using the bottle as a weapon has argued that Kowloon should share some of the blame.

Underage drinking was also an issue that night. Saugus Police confiscated 13 fake IDs. On average, Kowloon management confiscates one or two fake IDs per month, Wong said.

The restaurant distributes wristbands to those who have had their ID verified at the door. Cicolini suggested that Kowloon invest in wristbands with either the date of their distribution or the restaurant’s logo to prevent people from buying similar-looking ones online ahead of time and using them to drink illegally. Waiters are offered a $50 reward for illegal IDs that they confiscate, Wong said.

Board Member Corinne Riley praised the practice of offering incentives to staff members for confiscating fake IDs.

“It was a bad situation that got worse, but I just want to let you know, going through the report, knowing what you do ahead of time, what you plan to do moving forward, we appreciate how you’ve always run that business,” Riley told Wong.

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