Paku Lounge moves toward reopening with new manager, License Commissioners remain wary

WORCESTER - City officials during an inspection at Paku Lounge following an incident involving gunfire earlier this year.
WORCESTER - City officials during an inspection at Paku Lounge following an incident involving gunfire earlier this year.

WORCESTER — City License Commissioners approved a new manager, officers and director for Paku Corporation, setting the stage for the troubled Paku Lounge to begin the process of reopening following a 95-day liquor license suspension.

The Chandler Street restaurant's liquor license was suspended after gunfire erupted from the street outside the establishment on May 15 sending some patrons scrambling to the ground while others fired back from a patio.

The incident came about a year after a local man was shot to death outside the eatery, and the most recent incident was the third time gunfire erupted in or near the restaurant.

Commissioners were cautious about taking steps that would allow the restaurant to reopen. They remain wary months after having watched dramatic video of the scene and hearing that gangs were frequenting the business, hookah was sold illegally, bottle service was being offered and minors were served.

There are still several things that must be completed before Paku can operate as a restaurant again, they said.

In March they ordered Paku's owners to correct code violations, install a full-body metal detector and add a state-of-the art identification scanner.

The corporation has filed changes of leadership with the Secretary of State's office and the IRS, naming Maria Rivera of Worcester as president, vice president, treasurer, secretary and director.

Rivera's lawyer, Yaris Guzman, told commissioners that the business will be open during the day serving breakfast, lunch and dinner but will close by 8 p.m. and that she'd hoped to be ready to reopen on Sept. 5.

But commissioners nixed that idea and said they want Guzman to meet with them again on Sept. 8 to show proof that an illegal outdoor patio has been removed and concerns raised by code enforcement and the fire department have been addressed.

Commission Chairman Walter Shea was frustrated to hear that the patio roof was still in place.

"There was a cease and desist by the code department," he said.

"Because of the nature of the offense that happened that night, I want to make sure all the ducks are in a row; that we don't have that patio up anymore, that we don't have people loitering in that patio … where gunfire was coming from and into," Shea said.

By approving the new personnel, Paku's owners can begin applying for the needed licenses including a liquor license which can take more than a month to be approved by the state, city officials said.

Guzman was troubled by the plan, which means the restaurant can't open as soon as she'd hoped and the measure extended the length of time it would have to remain closed despite the suspension having been served.

Still, she agreed to have the patio removed and meet with License Commissioners again on Sept. 8.

This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: Paku Lounge moves toward reopening, License Commissioners remain wary