Our Echo
Title, story type, location, year, person or writer
Add a Post
View Posts
Popular Posts
Hall of Fame


Story ID:10497
Written by:Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Oneonta New York USA
Person:Restaurant owner
View Comments (4)   |   Add a Comment Add a Comment   |   Print Print   |     |   Visitors

By Fred Wickert

I am sure you have said when paying a state tax or penalty or license fee of some kind that the state was robbing you. You might have been right.

This is a true story about a friend of mine who I believe has been robbed by the State of New York. There is no appeal. He just has to live with it.

My friend is a Chinese man who used to be a sushi chef in a large Japanese restaurant in New York City. He has been saving money a little at a time for the future. He has a young wife he loves very much. About a year and a half ago a small Japanese restaurant became available for sale. The business and the restaurant equipment were for sale. The building is owned by someone else and there is a hefty rent on the place.

He believed it was a good investment so he bought the restaurant business. The previous owner had leased a couple of apartments for himself and his employees to live in. When my friend bought the business he took over the lease on the apartments as well.

His wife was pregnant. It was to be their first child and he was very excited about it. When he took over the business he kept two employees that worked there and wanted to stay. One was a waitress and the other was a sushi chef. After a couple of months the sushi chef said he needed to go to China for a while and he left. A few weeks later the waitress said she had a Green Card hearing coming up and she had to be in New York City for a while and she left. She had believed after the baby came his wife was going to take over as waitress so she was going to be out of a job. He said no, that she could have her job back when she finished her business. She never came back. He hired another girl but intended to give her the job back if she wanted it.

His wife finally gave birth to a baby girl. A month after she gave birth, his wife came to work at the restaurant and her mother took care of the baby. His father in law cooked and his brother in law helped out wherever he was needed. Some times he cooked, sometimes he washed dishes and pots and pans. Sometimes he helped the sushi chefs or worked making sushi on their day off and sometimes he helped wait on table. It is a family affair.

There are two colleges in town and he gets a lot of college student customers. They like to drink but most are to young to be served. Whenever anyone asks for alcohol he asks for ID. If the ID has their picture and a date of birth showing them to be over 21 he serves them. If the photo doesn't match or if the birth date says they are not yet 21, they do not get served.

Last fall a young man came in and asked for a beer. He was asked for and showed ID. The date of birth was okay and the picture was his so they sold him the beer. In a few minutes two men came in. They showed him police badges and said they were from the Liquor Control Board. They informed him they were writing him up because he had just served a minor. They indicated the minor. It was a set up. They sent the minor in.

My friend protested that he had checked his ID. He said the picture was him and the date of birth was right. They informed him that the ID card was a fake. They did not show him how it was a fake. They merely told him that it was a fake ID card.

He traveled to Albany to answer the summons. In Albany they told him they did not have anyone to handle Chinese speaking people and directed him to go to New York City. From his place of business it is a two hour drive to Albany and a four hour drive to New York City. He went to New York City and they gave him a date to return for a hearing. He hired a lawyer.

Last week he had to return for the hearing in New York City. After they heard his case they were not sympathetic at all. They charged him an administrative fine of $15,000 for selling beer to a minor. The fact that he had checked the ID and it looked valid made no difference. He had a choice. He could either pay the $15,000 fine immediately, or he could surrender his license until he did pay it. If he chose the latter, there was to be an additional fee for each day the fine was late.

Now the state, after the expenses of sending out their police with an under aged young man with a fake ID card they made up for him, and the expense of the hearing and the paper work, profited the balance of that $15,000.

My friend told me a few months back that he was looking for a good place not to far away to open another small restaurant. He said he had a large family and wanted to provide work for as many of them as he could. He thought if he could open a restaurant in another town not to far away, it could provide secure employment for some members of his family, and they would be near enough to each other to see each other often. He asked if I had any suggestions. I said I did.

I recommended a town 22 miles away that I knew did not have a Japanese restaurant. There is no college there but there is a lot of business in that town, including an aircraft parts factory that runs three shifts of workers there. He went to look, found a good location where there had been a restaurant before. Most of the equipment and tables and chairs were already there. He would only have to build the sushi bar. He contacted the Land Lord.

Two nights ago he showed me the paper work on his $15,000 fine. He was sad because he said now he was going to have to put off for a year or more, any thought of opening a new restaurant. He will not have enough money now to do it because of the fine. The state in their zeal to fine this man has lost for at least a year, license fees for a new restaurant. They have also prevented the creation of at least six new jobs. It was going to require a minimum of that many for the new restaurant.

To add insult to injury, he just paid the fine last week. This week four college students came in and sat at a booth. They ordered drinks with their meal. He checked their ID cards. He had to refuse two of them for not being old enough. About two minutes later a man came in and showed him a badge. The man praised him for not serving those two. They were plants by the state liquor Board to see whether or not he would serve them.

I worked in Law Enforcement for twenty five years. I never stooped to anything that low. I don't think it was fair at all. How is he supposed to be able to tell a forgery from the real thing? For the first offense I think $15,000 is terribly excessive. It is a small family operated restaurant for family business. It is not a place that is for drinking only and always jammed with young kids getting served. These people tried to obey the law and the investigators knew that. The hearing officer who levied the outrageous fine knew it too.

In my opinion he was legally robbed by the State of New York. That is not justice!

Please visit my website at: