Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

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December 19, 2013

Raagini liquor license renewed despite controversy

Selectmen split over Indian bistro's future

Less than a week after coming to a tenuous, legally dubious agreement with the owners of Raagini Indian Bistro, the Board of Selectmen Monday night almost undid all that work — first voting to reject the renewal of the embattled eatery’s liquor license before changing course and approving it.

The board, acting in its capacity as liquor licensing commission, ultimately voted — narrowly — in favor of granting the year-old North Main Street restaurant renewal of its annual liquor license, but not before a heated debate among selectmen and the attorney for owner/manager Jasbinder Pabla.

The final vote had selectmen Brian Major, Mary Lyman and Alex Vispoli in favor, with Paul Salafia opposed and Dan Kowalski abstaining.

An earlier vote, however, had only Major and Lyman voting in favor, with Salafia against and Kowalski and Vispoli abstaining. Because liquor license renewals need the support of a majority of the board, the motion originally failed, leaving Pabla’s attorney confused.

“I am somewhat perplexed by the whole situation,” Haverhill lawyer Joseph Edwards told the board, as he stood at the podium with his client and his client’s interpreter.

Last week, selectmen and town counsel Tom Urbelis hammered out an agreement with Edwards that imposed a 10-day liquor license suspension starting Jan. 2, 2014 on Raagini.

The agreement also forced the restaurant’s former manager, Jaspreet Pabla, who is Jasbinder’s son, to resign as manager, and imposed a number of other restrictions, including a provision that the restaurant no longer employ women under the age of 21.

The agreement came on the eve of a hearing before the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission in Boston, which was to hear Raagini’s appeal of what was originally a 30-day liquor license suspension handed down by selectmen in June.

The suspension was ordered after Jaspreet Pabla admitted to serving alcohol to an underage girl at the restaurant.

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