By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER – Asian cuisine will soon return to 1250 Osgood St., the site of the former Beijing Restaurant.
The selectmen, who voted unanimously to grant an all-alcohol license to the Hokkaido Restaurant on Monday night, made it abundantly clear they will not tolerate a return to the era of over-served customers and the drunken driving that sometimes resulted from that practice.
“We do understand the property has a bit of a history,” said attorney Carolyn Conway, who represents Sam Lei, 60 percent owner of the Hokkaido Restaurant.
Lei, who produces the sushi that is sold at Market Basket, was accompanied by Douglas Ling, who has advised him on the new enterprise, and John Ng, who will manage the Hokkaido.
A few weeks ago, Lei, doing business as HJ and S LLC, purchased the former Beijing Restaurant for $1,180,000, according to the Northern Essex Registry of Deeds. Conway told the selectmen Lei anticipates the Hokkaido, named for Japan’s northern island, will open in November.
The Hokkaido will offer Chinese, Japanese and Thai cuisine, Conway said. Lei is renovating the interior, so it remains to be determined what the restaurant’s capacity will be, she said.
It will not exceed the Beijing’s capacity of 351, she said. Both Conway and Lei said the new owner has no affiliation with the previous proprietor, Wen Jing Huang.
Besides food and drink, the Hokkaido will likely offer karaoke and other entertainment, Conway said. The selectmen voted to adopt Town Manager Andrew Maylor’s recommendation that t
he karaoke machine be turned off a half hour before the 1 a.m. closing time.
men voted in May 2011 to revoke the Beijing’s liquor license after North Andover police arrested Huang’s husband, Can Qi Liang of Quincy, for operating under the influence of liquor and a marked lanes violation. Liang had been drinking at the Beijing before his arrest, police said.
Shortly after the Beijing lost its liquor license, the restaurant closed. Bank of New England foreclosed on the property and bought it back at public auction for $800,000 on Jan. 17 of this year.
Conway said Lei and Ng will hire a “highly-trained staff” that will be vigilant about checking the IDs of younger customers and shutting off patrons who have reached their alcoholic limit.
“When in doubt, do not serve,” Selectman Rosemary Connelly Smedile advised. Smedile chairs the selectmen when they are acting as licensing commissioners.
Selectman Tracy Watson said she expects the new establishment and its employees will be “responsible members of our business community.” She pointed out that the board revoked the Beijing’s liquor license due to its many violations and will do so again if necessary.
“We’re thrilled that you’re coming
to North Andover,” Watson said.
William Gordon, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said having a new restaurant at the site of the former Beijing will be “wonderful,” but h
e also mentioned the “history of the prior establishment.”
“We’ve known from the beginning there was a troubled history,” Conway said.