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Fatal shooting not first problem at Mai Thai bar

By Sasha Goldstein

Publication: The Day

Published June 28. 2012 4:00AM

Norwich - City police have responded to the Mai Thai Restaurant & Bar more than 20 times since September 2011 and the state Liquor Control Commission has an open investigation into the business.

The latest police response came around 1:50 a.m. Sunday, when two women were shot, one fatally, in the bar section of the restaurant. Norwich police and the State Police Major Crime Squad said the women were shot by a man after a minor disturbance inside the restaurant. Neither victim has been identified and the gunman remains at large.

The police have responded to the 327 Laurel Ave. business for fights, noise disturbances or suspicious activity, according to documents provided by the Norwich police department.

The state Liquor Control Commission is investigating a complaint related to a disturbance in the rear parking lot last month, state liquor control division Director John Suchy said by email Wednesday.

"There is one closed complaint, which may be reopened, which relates to an alleged violation of the hours of operation occurring in June 2009," Suchy said of the business. "The reported shooting at the premises within the last few days has led to a review of this file and this file has been forwarded to the legal division for possible reinstatement of the alleged violations."

Police Capt. Patrick Daley said the business has been open as Mai Thai since September 2011. Before that, the restaurant was known as MVP Bar & Grill. Eric Sang holds the title for the restaurant liquor permit, state Department of Consumer Protection spokeswoman Claudette Carveth said, and Sang notified the state of the business name change when he renewed his permit. Suchy said the liquor permit was first issued in July 2007.

Sang could not be reached for comment.

The building's owner is Laurel Hill Investment, LLC, which bought the converted school in May 2007 for $500,000. Built in 1900, the building is more than 14,000 square feet and has large parking areas in the front and back. The Secretary of State's website lists Janny Lam as Laurel Hill's owner, with Libert K. Sang and Jason Yew listed as members. Reached Wednesday, Lam said the restaurant had reopened Tuesday after passing an inspection Monday. She said she could not comment further because she owns the building but is not involved in the business.

Daley said the police cannot shut down a business, but the state can.

"As of this time, we have not received a referral from the Norwich PD regarding the recent shooting and homicide," said Suchy, of the state liquor control division. "The Liquor Control Division will follow up with the Norwich PD as it relates to this tragic incident."

Gone is the police tape that surrounded the crime scene Sunday, and on Wednesday afternoon, no cars were in the restaurant's parking lot. Signs on the door indicated the business is open from 4 p.m. until either 1 or 2 a.m. each day of the week, but the business was shuttered after 4 Wednesday afternoon.

In the back, Mai Thai has an outdoor patio with chairs and tables. A "Now Open" sign sits the front of the large, brick building.

Neighbors at 320 Laurel Hill Ave., an apartment complex across the street, said the bar frequently is noisy, with lots of cars, but never such violence.

One neighbor, who asked not to be identified, said Mai Thai generally opened after 9 p.m.

"It's more a bar than a restaurant," she said.

Sunday morning, the neighbor said she was in bed reading when she heard a single gunshot. She ran to the window and saw people streaming from the establishment, screaming and crying. The roadway is dark, the neighbor said, so she could not see much except flashing police lights.

Daley said Wednesday he was limited in the information he could release but he encouraged anyone with information to contact the police department.

"Tips, tips, tips," he said.

The homicide is the city's first of the year and second since December, when 26-year-old Jaclyn Wirth was gunned down inside her East Baltic Street apartment. Her killer remains at large.

s.goldstein@theday.com

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