OLD TOWN — By day, Lan’s Old Town is your typical Chinese takeout spot. But on the weekends, the restaurant looks more like a nightclub — and is notorious among neighbors for wild, boozy dance parties that stretch into the early morning hours.
And apparently, the pandemic — or a statewide ban on indoor dining and drinking — has done little to stop the party.
In a video posted on Reddit over the weekend, more than 60 people can be seen packed into Lan’s, 1507 N. Sedgwick St. None are wearing masks, except co-owner Jimmy Ma, whose mask is around his chin as he parties alongside customers, pouring vodka from the same bottle into the mouths of guests.
The video was viewed thousands of times on Reddit before being deleted Monday. A spokesman for the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection said it is now investigating the “reckless” incident.
Outside of the restaurant Monday, Ma confirmed the large party seen in the video occurred Saturday night. He said the restaurant has been hosting private events on the weekends, but capacity has been capped at 35 people.
Under current state restrictions to limit the spread of coronavirus, such parties are banned altogether.
Ma said two large groups showed up Saturday night claiming to know each other and have reservations. He said he felt his hands were tied and let in both groups, which is why so many people were in the video, he said.
“Okay, what can I do? I could kick them out? They’re already inside,” Ma said of the large crowd in attendance.
Ma had not previously seen the video in question, but said he was the one on camera pouring a bottle of liquor into a patron’s mouth. He added that other places in the neighborhood are ignoring restrictions and hosting private events to keep cash coming in after months of forced closures.
Just last month, 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney’s Ann Sather restaurant in Lakeview was caught serving customers indoors and violating the state’s mitigation rules.
Ma also said the restaurant provided hand sanitizer and conducted temperature checks at the door.
“We try to [have] as much as we can for everybody [to be] safe, be happy, have a good time,” Ma said.
On Lan’s website, there is a form to reserve “a night to remember” with options to select dates in the near future.
“…Your typical Chinese takeout spot on the weekdays, and wild BYOB party nights on the weekends,” the site says.
The parties may be bucking coronavirus rules now but they were irritating Old Town neighbors even before the pandemic.
“He’s just a crap neighbor,” one Old Town resident said, asking to remain anonymous. “I mean there’s beer cans and broken bottles and s–t all over the sidewalk, after the parties that they have on Fridays and Saturday nights.”
He pointed out that the restaurant boarded up its windows to conceal what is happening inside.
“And we all know how this works, right? There’s 40 people in there and it’s a super-spreader event,” the neighbor said. “And that happens twice a weekend. Two times per day. I don’t want to outwardly tell on you but, you know come on, give me a break.”
After seeing the video, some took to the restaurant’s Yelp page to leave negative reviews.
Cole N. wrote, “Lan’s has been regularly hosting unmasked super-spreader parties where the owner has been passing a bottle of Tito’s to patrons for everyone to put their mouth on. This place needs to be shut down now!!!”
In a statement, officials with the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection said they were not aware of the party until Monday.
“This matter remains under investigation, and BACP will continue working hard to crack down on problem businesses that egregiously flaunt COVID-19 regulations and disregard the health of our community,” a statement from the department read.
As for Ma, he said private events are wrapped up by 11 p.m. and that he had been trying to follow the rules.
“Some people like it. Some people don’t like it. … Maybe we just … shut down and forget it,” Ma said.
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