SAUGUS — Saugus wings and mai tais will soon be served in a tiki tent behind the town’s largest restaurant on Route 1.
Kowloon Restaurant was granted temporary approval from the Board of Selectmen to add an outdoor eating area to the 1,200-seat restaurant for half the year.
“People would rather be outside during the summer months,” said Bob Wong, who, with his siblings, owns Kowloon.
Wong requested a change in the restaurant’s existing licensing to allow food and alcoholic beverages to be served in the 1,800-square-foot outdoor dining area.
The board approved the request for the season on Wednesday night, subject to approval of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, the state agency that works with companies and municipal licensing authorities to provide licenses, enforce legislation and regulations, and resolve license issues. If the first season goes well, selectmen said they would allow the restaurant to operate beneath the tent for up to 180 days per year moving forward.
“If you are inundated with complaints that it’s loud or noisy, I would be the first one to shut it down,” said Wong, who added that Saugus has been good to his family’s business.
Debra Panetta, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, expressed concerns about customers leaving the tent and getting in their cars with alcoholic beverages, and selecman Jeff Cicolini, questioned how safe the tent would be with people driving through the parking lot.
A police officer will be paid to patrol the area during operational hours, and live and recorded music will be restricted to inside the building. Large planters will line the tent to serve as safety barriers between customers and vehicles in the parking lot, while also adding to the aesthetics.
The 30-foot by 60-foot tent will be erected behind the existing Route 1 Chinese food restaurant and adorned with tiki lights and other decorations. The area will fit 106 seats.
The iconic restaurant was opened by Wong’s grandparents in 1950 with 50 seats. His parents took it over eight years later and started a series of several expansions.
“Now we have 1,200 seats,” said Wong. “My mother and father had a lot of foresight and great dreams. I don’t think anyone would build a 1,200 seat restaurant today.”
He and his five siblings, who run the business together, have made an effort to continue their vision.