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Seaport, South End restaurants get one-day license suspensions for Covid-19 violations

The Boston Licensing Board today ordered Rosa Mexicano, 155 Seaport Blvd., and Kava Neo-Taverna, 315 Shawmut Ave., shut for one night each after BPD detectives found them with way more patrons than allowed under current Covid-19 restrictions.

Managers at both restaurants apologized and vowed it would never happen again.

Rosa Mexicano manager Greg Sherman, who said he lost his mother to the virus last May, was particularly apologetic for all the people found inside his restaurant this past Friday night.

Sherman said what happened was that it was too cold for people to dine in the restaurant's outdoor igloos and huts, but rather than turn those patrons away, he allowed them to come inside to eat. Responding to a 311 call from a patron inside that night, detectives found 133 people inside at a time when the restaurant should not have had more than 74 under the state's 25% capacity limit for restaurants. In earlier times, Rosa Mexicano was licensed for 296 patrons.

When Licensing Sgt. William Gallagher and a C-6 officer arrived and found all those extra patrons, "I was embarrassed, I was disheartened," Sherman said. "It was eye opening. ... I don't think anything ever gut punched me as how eye opening this was."

Sherman said he realized that morning he might have an issue so he cut off OpenTable reservations at 8 a.m., but didn't realize just how many patrons would wind up inside that night.

He said that going forward, he will not take any reservations through OpenTable until the state relaxes its requirements and restaurants can get back to at least 50% capacity. He added that the next day, he had his staff remove enough tables so that the restaurant could only host a maximum of 66 people.

"I'm very sorry this happened, it should have never happened, and nothing like this will ever happen again," he said. "If we don't have the public's trust than we don't have a business, bottom line."

Board Chairwoman Kathleen Joyce, who made the motion for a one-day Friday suspension, said she sympathized with how difficult the situation is for restaurants, but noted that the police only showed up after a call from a diner inside the restaurant that night. "This is a public health crisis," she said.

The board voted a similar one-day suspension for Kava after licensing Det. Eddie Hernandez testified that he and his partner found 19 people inside the restaurant when it should have had no more than 9 on Thursday night. In normal times, the restaurant is licensed for 34 patrons.

Owner Alexander Lievano also apologized. He said what happened was that two parties were in the process of settling up and leaving when he let a third party in to escape the cold outside.

But Hernandez said he saw no evidence that was what was actually happening. Board member Keeana Saxon said other restaurants have figured out how to keep waiting patrons warm while waiting outside for a table - by calling them when their table is ready. Board member Liam Curran questioned whether the restaurant was leaving enough time between parties to adequately sanitize tables.

Because the violation happened on a Thursday, the board voted to shut Kava on an upcoming Thursday.

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Comments

Both restaurants sounded apologetic and while a lot of people probably want longer suspensions, I think this length is ok. That is, as long as they're on some kind of probation (where inspectors visit them more often) and any future violation will be an automatic 30+ days.

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Voting closed 19

For a second offense? Are you also for capital punishment when doing 40 in a 30?

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Voting closed 17

I think that’s too kind, frankly. They should be shut down for a week for any such violations, to ensure there’s the proper incentive. Otherwise these restaurants will keep breaking the rules. You seat 39 people instead of 17 for another day, you more than made up another 17 people worth of a dining night just like that. Heck, they might be incentivized to stay at 100% capacity if the suspension is just one other night since they could make the revenue of multiple days in one shot.

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Voting closed 33

I often feel like restaurants are put into an impossible situation with regards to liquor and other laws where the deck is stacked against them. But not in this case.

This isn't the case of a busy server not checking ID or a crafty 20 year old with a fake. It's a blatant violation which everyone could see. And it's not as if they were just a few people above the patron limit either.

Other owners are going to bankrupt trying to follow the rules (and keep people safe) but this guy didn't care and decided to cash in on a good night as much as possible.

I think if I ran a restaurant I'd pass out a note with every menu encouraging the patrons to call Baker and tell him to speed up vaccine administration so we can get back to fun times eating out with friends.

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Voting closed 40

I’m feeling less sympathetic now than I was after I read the profuse apologies.

If I was one of the patrons in those restaurants seeing these violations and worried for my own safety, I think I’d get up and leave. After reporting it.

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Voting closed 12

If you were that worried, you wouldn’t go to a restaurant for indoor dining in the first place! Good God Man! Very easy folks, if you are terrified of the virus, stay home. If you have gone to work everyday during it, tested negative 12x (also negative antibody test each time too) and want to go out to eat, have at it. Guess what, you can get the vaccine and still get the vid! Wooooo

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Voting closed 13

It's one thing to be stupid to overlook Covid restrictions as either a biz owner or patron but to do so in pursuit of marginal food tells me that humanity is lost.

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Voting closed 22

Here come ALL OF THE JEALOUS PEOPLE NOW,If You Think It Is Not Safe Just Leave Don’t BE A RAT. The Restaurants are Drowning in Debt And You Have To Call The Cops. Maybe You Should Walk A Mile In Their Shoes.

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Voting closed 17

Public safety comes first.

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Voting closed 23

The person who called city wasn't another restaurant owner pissed they had to close while this guy cashed in?

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Voting closed 14

If you don't like seeing someone get murdered, should you just walk away also?

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Voting closed 5

How does calling people when their table is ready keep them warm while waiting outside?

Maybe in a car-oriented suburb where people can idle their cars in the parking lot (illegally, if it’s more than 5 minutes). But that doesn’t work in the South End where people walk to restaurants.

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Voting closed 15

what kind of person is gonna rat out the very own restaurant they are dining in?

Dining out is a complete non-necessity right now (for patrons). I could understand a neighbor passing by a crowded restaurant and feeling concerned for their general area. But if you have already made the decision to take the risk to eat in a resto indoors during a pandemic....and are gonna sit there and snitch on the retaurant instead of just leaving...wow, that takes a pretty obnoxious pair of balls. Having worked in restaurants though, I'm not surprised at the entitlement.

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Voting closed 12

Personally, I wouldn't eat at any restaurants right now, but I don't see why it's totally crazy to say "I'll eat at a restaurant if it follows the rules, but if it clearly isn't following those rules, that's a problem".

Just because you're willing to accept some risk, doesn't mean that you're signing up for any and all conditions.

(and if we think indoor dining is truly dangerous and nonessential at any level, then the city/state should just step in to shut down all indoor dining and not leave it up to individuals.)

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Voting closed 14

JJ Foleys at full capacity over the weekend like pre Covid times. Sadly it’s a cop bar so who do you call in a situation like that? Then these guys come into our homes and pull us over maskless after they’ve been fraternizing shoulder to shoulder like they’re on Yawkey way during the World Series and potentially exposing us to the virus. Sigh.

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Voting closed 3