Chinese Restaurant Owners Question $7500 Hookup Fee

Front Page / Mar. 23, 2005 11:00pm EST

Chinese Restaurant Owners Question $7500 Hookup Fee

The grand opening of a new Chinese restaurant in Randolph Village this week brought a steady stream of diners into the "East Garden" eatery.

The new business, operated by a Chinese couple from St. Johnsbury, also stirred up memories about other restaurants that formerly operated at 3 Salisbury Street, as town officials debated whether to charge Annie and Bill Lu $7500 for a water and sewer allocation.

Steve Reid of Brookfield Development Company appeared last week before the Randolph Selectboard, on behalf of the Lus, to present documents indicating that the one-time $7500 allocation fee to join the system had been paid in 1988, when Frannie’s Restaurant moved from Merchant’s Row to the Salisbury Street space.

Reid, who manages the Salisbury Street building for property owner George Makris, said this week that he got involved in the allocation issue to help out the Lus. As Makris’s representative, he had negotiated the lease with the Lus.

Because of language difficulties—the couple speaks Mandarin and Cantonese, and limited English—they had apparently missed information about the hook-up fee when they met with Zoning Administrator Mardee Sanchez, Reid said.

"By the time they realized it was necessary," he added, "they were literally ready to open. On top of the investment they already had made, it came as quite a blow."

"I began doing a little research," Reid noted.

That research took him first to the Barre office of the Agency of Natural Resources, where a helpful state employee dug up the file number of the state water and wastewater permit issued for Frannie’s. Reid then took the file number to the state archives in Middlesex, where another helpful person dug up the required files.

Reid explained that the state permit was issued after the town allocation was granted, and the state file includes copies of town forms.

What Reid found was a copy of a 1988 letter from former Town Manager Ken Minier, granting the allocation to Frannie Dudek for a 46-seat restaurant. Another eatery, BD Mac’s, subsequently operated at the site.

Last week, the selectboard referred the Lus’ appeal back to the Randolph water and sewer committee for reconsideration. The board allowed the Lus to open this week, but warned that they might still have to pay the fee.

Reid said this week that he and the Lus have a March 31 meeting with the committee.

Reid, who noted that he enjoyed a very good meal at the new restaurant this week, added that he has been favorably impressed by the Lus, who are "hardworking, very nice people."

He noted that Bill Lu had done all of the installation and renovation work at the restaurant, with the help of a few friends and "technical people," such as local electrician Rick Ernst.

The Lus, who formerly operated restaurants in New York City, Hardwick, and St. Johnsbury, are searching for housing here. Bill Lu "literally camped out" at the restaurant during the renovation, Reid added.

‘Big City’ Chinese

Opening their doors on Monday morning, Annie and Bill Lu welcomed diners to their East Garden Chinese Restaurant this week.

The Salisbury Street restaurant, with seven booths and three tables, also prepares take-out orders.

Annie Lu said this week that she and her husband are natives of the Chinese province of Canton. The couple moved to Vermont about four years ago, after operating a Chinese restaurant in New York City for eight years. They came to Vermont seeking small town, rural life, she said, and operated restaurants in Hardwick and then St. Johnsbury.

The Lus decided to relocate to Randolph, she said, because they felt it would offer a better business opportunity. They are actively seeking a two- or three-bedroom home in the area, she said.

When asked about the specialties of their restaurant, Lu said of her husband, "He’s a superman—he does everything."

He is assisted in the kitchen by friends, who came here from New York City to work with the Lus. One of those friends, she noted, was a chef in China for 10 years.

The décor includes two distinctive and very different pieces of Eastern art, and Chinese music provides some extra atmosphere.

Lu noted that she and her husband wish to bring local diners the kind of high-quality, "big city" Chinese food that is available in New York.

East Garden Chinese Restaurant is open seven days a week, and take-out orders can be phoned or faxed in.

By Sandy Cooch

Return to top