Boston-area restaurant charged with secretly filming patrons to stay open

Taam China, a famous kosher restaurant in Brookline, Mass., will remain open provided it upholds three conditions.

By NICK GREENHALGH/WICKED LOCAL METRO
July 4, 2018 10:43
Boston-area restaurant charged with secretly filming patrons to stay open

Taam China restaurant in Brookline, Mass.. (photo credit: GOOGLE STREET VIEW)

 
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Wicked Local Metro, Needham, Mass. (TNS) -- About a dozen Brookline residents and others came together at a recent Select Board meeting to support the Kosher restaurant Taam China, which faced losing its license after police allegedly discovered the restaurant's co-owner, Tze Ping Chung, had been videotaping people in the bathroom.

Chung allegedly set up two hidden cameras in the handicapped restroom with different angles. One camera was across from the toilet and another next to the toilet looking up, according to the Brookline Police report. The report also stated each person recorded was female and identified one as an employee who has worked there for eight years.

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"Don't let a bad apple destroy a good restaurant the Jewish community is asking and pleading to have," said Stanley Rabinovitz, honorary president of Young Israel Synagogue of Brookline, who came to support the restaurant on June 19.

Taam China has been open for about 20 years at 423 Harvard St., and is popular among many in the local Jewish community.

Tai-Sheng Ying said he co-founded the restaurant with Chung in 1999, and each of them holds a 50 percent share of the business. Ying, also known as "Chef Ying," works in the kitchen. Chung managed the business.

In an interview, Ying said he and employees at the restaurant were "shocked" to hear about the allegations against Chung. He said he and Chung had worked together for more than two decades.

"He is a serious, energetic and hard working person," he said.

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After the Brookline Police arrested Chung June 7, the restaurant remained open with eight employees, according to Ying's attorney, Meihuei Hu.

Allowed to remain open, with conditions

At the June 19 meeting, the Select Board voted unanimously to add three conditions to Taam China's license. They would be allowed to stay open, so long as they satisfied each condition.

The first condition stated that by June 26, Taam China would assign a new manager to be responsible for business and operations conducted under the license. On June 29, Town Administrator Mel Kleckner said Taam China had assigned a new manager and met the condition set forth by the Select Board.

The second condition stated that Chung not be allowed to be physically present at the restaurant or take part in the business or operations of Taam China. Kleckner told The TAB that the terms of Chung's bail preclude him from being at Taam China.

The final condition asked that within 60 days of the June 19 hearing, Taam China would submit a report updating the Select Board on the current ownership and management structure of the restaurant.

"They've met the conditions," Kleckner said, acknowledging the town awaits a progress report in the coming weeks.

In addition to the conditions handed down by the Select Board, the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission has indefinitely suspended Taam China's liquor license.

A letter sent by the ABCC on June 19 stated that the decision would stand until a written request showing good cause was filed by Taam China. The ABCC said that letter must include an alteration to the license that bans Chung from the restaurant and strips him of his involvement in the business.

Taam China remains open, despite the indefinite liquor license suspension.

A show of support

Rabinovitz told the board that neither Ying nor other employees at Taam China had anything to do with Chung's alleged behavior, which he said was "beyond disgusting." He said he was concerned the restaurant's reputation was being destroyed and worried about Chung's family.

Rabinovitz recalled walking into Taam China after Chung's arrest and saw his wife, Heng Ying Wu, weeping.

"My children can't even go onto the street now," Rabinovitz recalled her saying.

"The community should stand by the good people and help them to rebuild their lives," Rabinovitz told the board.

In an interview, Heng Ying Wu said the restaurant is still open, but its fate is unknown. After police arrested Chung, Ying said, he was forced to send some of the employees home temporarily because the restaurant lost roughly half of its revenue.

Ying speaks only Mandarin and said he is currently looking for someone fluent in English to replace Chung as manager. He said he also is working on buying out Chung from the restaurant and renovating the bathroom. He said he plans to change the name of the restaurant.

After everything settles down, Ying said, he hopes to continue operating the restaurant.

"It's 20 years of commitment," he said. "It's hard to just give it up."

At the Select Board meeting, Rhonda Ann Gerber came from Rhode Island to support Ying and Taam China. She and several other supporters told the board that local Jewish residents who eat Kosher food have a small selection, and it is rare for someone outside the community to provide that kind of service.

"There's no other Kosher place that serves Chinese food," she said. "It's important for people who eat only Kosher food to have a nice and proper place to go for anniversaries, for business, for dating."

Store owners and residents were reluctant to talk about the situation when a reporter approached them on the street. But those who agreed to speak said they were concerned.

Reaction

Daniel Bryant, who has worked for 10 years as a security guard at a bank in Brookline, said he was surprised something like this would happen.

"At first, I thought no way," he said. "How could anyone do this, especially in Brookline?"

However, this is not the first incident of secret videotaping in a public restroom in Brookline. In March 2015, a former employee at Zaftigs Delicatessen, a restaurant three blocks from Taam China, was arrested for allegedly putting a hidden camera in the restroom.

"As a mother I can't help but think about [how] a child might be in there," Katia Valentine, a Brookline resident who lives near Coolidge Corner, said. "What happened was beyond creepy. Now I cannot go into a large bathroom without checking — the thought is always there."

In May, Chung pleaded not guilty to two counts of aggravated rape of a child and forcible rape of a child, three counts of indecent assault and battery on a child, four counts of possession of child pornography and one count each of posing a child in a state of nudity and secretly recording a person.

According to the Middlesex district attorney's office, Chung sexually assaulted the girl, who is known to him, several times starting in 2012, as the MetroWest Daily News reported on June 7.

Jacqueline Yi Zhou is a Boston University journalism student writing as part of a collaboration between the Brookline Tab and BU News Service.

© 2018 Wicked Local Metro, Needham, Mass. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

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