Marijuana Gummy Incident Briefly Closes Kong

The Hong Kong Restaurant
The Hong Kong Restaurant, which features a bar lounge and dance floor, was forced to close temporarily on Friday by the Cambridge Licence Commission.
Scorpions bowls weren’t the only intoxicating substance distributed at the Hong Kong Restaurant in October 2016.

The Harvard Square restaurant, known simply as “the Kong”, closed briefly in early February for a narcotics-related violation that took place in October, according to an email from the Cambridge License Commission to Paul Lee, the restaurant’s owner.

The commission suspended the restaurant’s license from Feb. 7 through Feb. 10, and required the restaurant to post a sign stating that it was closed by order of the license commission. Ten additional days will be held in abeyance for one year.

According to a statement from the license commission, the Kong was found in violation for permitting “illegalities on the premises.”

The incident occurred around 10 p.m. on Oct. 5, when the Kong’s night manager, Paul Cugini, gave THC-laced gummy bears to employee Nicole Murphy upon her request, according to the license commission.

According to the transcript of a license commission hearing regarding the case, Murphy was unaware that the candies were laced. Upon consuming the gummy bears, Murphy felt numb, began talking nonsense, and locked herself in her car with the music playing at an abnormally loud volume, police recounted at a November hearing of the license commission. Officers from the Cambridge Police Department arrived at the scene to respond to reports of the disturbance.

After repeatedly questioning Cugini, officers reported that Cugini alleged to have obtained the laced candies from the doorman at the restaurant. With Lee’s cooperation, officers on the scene searched the restaurant and Cugini for illegal substances, but did not find anything, according to statements at the hearing. Lee fired Cugini shortly after the incident.

“I feel strongly that the cooperation with the police officer was very helpful,” Christopher Burke, former interim police commissioner for the CPD, said during the hearing. “It really cut to the chase and sped things up in terms of the investigation of the Police Department and that was appreciated.”

Murphy was transported safely to the Cambridge City Hospital and has recovered, according to Lee’s testimony at the hearing.

In the aftermath of the incident, Lee terminated Cugini’s employment at the restaurant but did not personally speak to employees, including Murphy and the doorman, about the incident until after the initial license commission hearing in November, according to the license commission’s statement. In a December hearing, Kevin P. Crane, the attorney representing Lee, said Lee had taken action to speak to employees in a group and individually and had everyone sign a “drug-free workplace policy statement.”

When determining the proper disciplinary actions, the commission took into consideration the restaurant's recent perfect disciplinary record, Lee’s cooperation with the police, and the seriousness of the offense, but did not take into account information provided after the initial hearing.

“The distribution, sale and consumption of illegal drugs is a serious offense and one that required the licensee to take serious action,” wrote Nicole Murati Ferrer, the license commission’s chair, in a statement. “Here, the licensee took no such actions and no reasonable steps.”

Lee did not respond to request for comment Tuesday evening.

—Staff writer Michael E. Xie can be reached at michael.xie@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelEXie1

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