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Van Bramer and Shi Restaurant defend the establishment’s battered reputation

Shi Restaurant

Shi Restaurant

Aug. 19, 2013 By Christian Murray

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who is holding his 44th birthday party at Shi Restaurant in Long Island City this evening, came out in defense of the Japanese restaurant this afternoon after its reputation has been battered by the media.

The restaurant, located at 47-20 Center Blvd, became the focus of a news story following an alleged hate crime that took place outside its premises on Friday night.

Billie and Jacob James-Vogel, a couple who had just dinned at the restaurant, said that they and a gay friend were attacked outside the restaurant after three men from a nearby car began hurling homophobic and racist slurs.

Shortly after the couple said they were attacked, they tried to gain access to Shi Restaurant where the doorman did not let them in, according to news reports.

“We vehemently deny these allegations because it is simply untrue,” according to a statement released by Shih Lee, the owner of Shi Restaurant this afternoon.

“We were not aware of the incident until it was over,” Lee said. “In any event, we were informed the police were called and on their way,” the statement read. “Neither Billie or Jacob Vogel was turned away.”

Van Bramer, who praised the police for their quick response following the incident, said, “I’ve also been assured that the hate crimes unit is on the case investigating to determine if this crime was motivated by hate.”

“I would also caution against any premature judgments made against Shih Lee, “ Van Bramer said. “I know [him] to be a smart and community minded business owner who I believe is incredibly supportive of the LGBT community and equality for all.”

Shi has been savaged online for the past 36 hours, with readers going on Yelp and using social media to condemn the restaurant.

“Do NOT eat here!!!! There was a hate crime right outside this restaurant very recently and the staffers REFUSED to help the victims,” one Yelp reviewer wrote.

Many of the reviews were similar.

Meanwhile, Lee in a statement, said: We strongly condemn discrimination in all forms and under no circumstances would we turn away anyone who needed help for whatever reason. Our sympathies go out to the James-Vogels and we sincerely hope they recover both physically and emotionally from this devastating incident.”

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Ray & Rita Normandeau

We saw video that Shi posted on YouTube.

It would appear that someone may have been escorted out of Shi.

However in next video, which is supposed to be showing same person wearing shorts, the shirt is not the same

I 2 Live in LIC

Live in LIC:
I totally agree
The police don’t/won’t police the Gantry because they claim it is the state’s jurisdiction. It’s a state park. Evidently they believe all of the kids hanging out drinking after the park closes go straight home after. There have been sexual assaults, muggings, robberies… Still they do nothing. The state claims it doesn’t have money for rangers here, yet they just expanded the park nearly doubling it’s size…where did they find they money?

That said, I’m not really sure why anyone goes to Shi in the first place. It’s just so cheesey. But that’s kind of what our neighborhood has become.

I feel for these people. This neighborhood has become so Douchie and thuggy and it sounds like they got caught in the coming storm.


I personally know the owners and can say with certainty they are honorable members of the community and have friends from all walks of life . I know this incident is simply not true . I hope people would be smart enough to realize that there is more than one side to a story . We were not there we did not see or hear what transpired so we cannot pass judgement !!!

Shi Believer

If you have ever gone to Shi, you would know that you can’t see what is going on outside SHI unless you are actually outside as there are wooden double doors blocking your view.
Furthermore, if a person runs to your door claiming for help, the doorman will not know who is the attacker and who is claiming to be attacked. What if the doorman let the person in and the person started attacking the patrons inside? Would you then say it is wrong to let them in? Or that the security was correct in locking the doors for the safety of the patrons inside the restaurant? If your personal safety was in the way, you would be singing a different tune.
All in all, whenever a restaurant or a bar has patrons causing a fight, it doesn’t matter who is right or wrong, both are ejected put of the establishment.
If you patronize a business where that does not happen, please do speak up.


I’m curious as to why the media and the couple are focusing more on the restaurant instead of the other two attackers that got away. how about a description? how about mentioning them and providing a sketch so we can catch them? something sounds fishy with the couple. If I was attacked w racial and homophobic slurs, I would go to the press to find all the attackers instead of getting upset at the restaurant. It makes one wonder if the couple had an ulterior motive.
I agree w Speakthetruth and Anon1, the public really should not judge without knowing all the facts. It is also sad how the media forgoes the truth but instead goes for sensationalism knowing the public is to dumb to care about the truth and rather get caught up in the sensationalism. This is reporting at its finest I suppose.


I totally agree with Speakthetruth.

I’ve read all the stories and from the beginning I felt there was much more to this.

This last version is very much what I had suggested may have happened.

The fact that Jason (the homosexual friend of the couple) went on Facebook calling people “GUIDOS” indicates he/they (possibly) were not so innocent when it comes to racist remarks.

When it turns out that the guy arrested in fact had a Greek name, more remarks were pasted.

It seems to me both sides made racist remarks and yes probably homophobic remarks, but hey now it sounds like they (the couple and Jason) were drunk enough to be thrown out of the Shi and when when they get beat up they cry racism and whatever they could think of.

The Guido/Greek now gets to tell his story to the Judge while the drunks cry to all the newspapers that will listen.


Here are some facts that is left behind that i heard :

The couple were stopped from being served acohol because they were intoxicated and started to become rowdy and they were escorted outside by the bouncer .

there was a couple at the fourth floor at a very close by building who witness the whole thing from beginning that they were not “attacked ” but they got into arguements that led into a fight .Had they go home straight they will never got into this situation .How they lost the fight and got beated up that is unknown to me and very unfortunate .

With that being said i do have sympathy for what had happend to them and sympathy for SHI being an easy target to be blamed .

My analogy is : you throw a party at your house and then your friends become drunk and make scene and you ask them to leave and then they got into fight in front of your home with stranger coz they are drunk .will you let them back inside while you have all other guest and your kids inside ? I doubt that .

Perhaps i would just call the cops and thats exactly Shi did ,at least according to the statement at their website ,and told them that help is on the way .how do we know if the couple lied or not since they were upset being escorted out of the rest ??
How do we know who call the cops first ?
How do we know if Shi really call the cops or not ?

ONLY the Cops can proove it with 911 calls print out record .

Will all being said i will only wait for the truth to speak for itself !
Only ignorant ppl will judge without sufficient proofs .i do not wanna be called one .


the truth is the owner is not at the door they should fire the door people that didn’t let them in


Mike Novak
Now if YOU had just left Shi and YOU were being beaten outside, would you feel the same way as you were being kicked and punched?

Me personally: If I use a one of your brain (people commenting here) I would hate shi and try to shut down the place.

If use my Brain: I would be very upset at shi until next day when my brain will be at 40% again. i would utilize 10 % brain and would say i understand shi; he could loose his license, hes not obligated to help strangers, he doesn’t follow customer home for him to know a customer been attack outside, maybe he was using the bathroom at the time, maybe the place was close at accident…………..If i keep going i would have to charge for lesson. i only use 40 percent of my brain.

Try maintain a liquor license in NYC. First month you would loose it and close the business soon.

Mike Novak

Chris: You wrote: “Shi did the right thing, if I was eating there I wouldn’t want to be bothered for any circumstances.”

Now if YOU had just left Shi and YOU were being beaten outside, would you feel the same way as you were being kicked and punched?


I happened to be inside SHI on that Friday night/Saturday morning and I must say that the perspective is quite different from all the news and press.

I would caution those to not quickly prejudge Mr. Shih and his restaurant’s actions. SHI and its owners are extremely supportive of the Long Island City community and the LBGT community. If you haven’t met him and you’re concerned about this incident, please speak with him first and I think you will quickly learn just how caring he really is about our neighborhood.

This incident very unfortunate for the community but there have been several crimes happening around this area. They need to beef up security in the park and police patrols around the area. I’m not assuming that would have prevented this entirely but it would deter some of the violent crimes that have been happening throughout Queens West. My condolences go out to the victims of this crime and I wish them a quick recovery, both physically and emotionally.

Re: Yelp. They have been deleting both the positive reviews and the negative reviews so the conspiracy theories can rest.

There are very few great people left in this world, but Shih Lee is certainly one of them. No one is perfect and if you are too quick to judge, one day this might happen to you. Mr. Lee has been helping to build the Long Island City community and neighborhood for 5+ years. I highly doubt he would simply turn an injured neighbor away. The average tenure and diversity of his staff I’d just one example of Mr. Lee’s character and family oriented approach. It’s shameful that so many people on the band wagon would write nasty comments online without fully understanding what occurred. You ruin the good and all you will have left is the bad.

trial by internet


Thanks for link. Some observations based on the PIX11 story:

1. The EMT representative just said the EMT workers on the scene said they weren’t allowed back into the restaurant.

-> The only reasonable explanation that the EMT workers would have known is by the trio’s comments (i.e., the EMT workers were not first-hand WITNESSES ).

2. the PIX11 story’s account suggests the trio were not right in front of SHI but actually past the Gantry park entrance just south right next to the rental building.

-> if true, I doubt anyone from SHI actually saw anything happening.

3. The PIX11 also is contradictory to what this couple wrote on Yelp. On Yelp they wrote that the man went back to the bouncer, but the PIX11 story said the wife and gay man went back to the bouncer.

-> It seems like a chaotic and complicated situation, and it’s easy to blame.

4. I’m sure there’s some camera account of what happened. So let’s wait on judgement?


Just went to the yelp site for SHI and somehow their ratings went back up to 4.5 instead of just 3 stars. Something fishy is going on. I’m of Asian ethnicity and I’m so disgusted by the actions of the owner and his employees. Twisting your story around just sounds like you’re crying wolf. Just own up already for your shitty mistake.

Live in LIC

The question really shouldn’t be about Shi since there are very conflicting stories and the couple has said they did not try to re-enter Shi. Where was the police in all this? This should be the real question. People sit in their cars out front of the Gantry drinking at all hours of the night caring on and leaving trash all over the place. Why aren’t people complaining about the lack of police (actually nonexistent). I live right next to Shi and I NEVER see police walking around the neighborhood. The precinct is right there??? The real issue is why do we allow the police to do nothing in the neighborhood – protect the people, ticket cars that don’t move for months (a few have flat tires??), etc.


I can understand not wanting to let people who are involved in a fight into your restaurant. I think that is legitimate and that the restaurant, instead of denying that this happened, needs to explain why bars and restaurants don’t do this.

What I can’t understand is A) refusing to call the police and B) refusing to do what the guy above, the one who doesn’t want to be bothered while at dinner *for any reason*, suggested. Bring out a chair for the victim to sit in, call the police.

Maybe they didn’t realize what was going on. I don’t care. As a Community we have a responsibility to help each other out, to be good neighbors and sometimes to GET INVOLVED to help keep it safe for EVERYONE. This restaurant is part of the Community…at least it was.


Ex, that is the problem everything seems to indicate that SHI’s staff was not outside witnessing this shameful act. If it turns out that the doorman knew exactly what was happening outside and decided to not aid this couple and their friend than I think all this indignation is justified.


@Chris – I think the bigger picture is that – sure, Shi can do what they want & probably most people think that helping out other people who are being beaten is the right thing to do — and as a politician one would think that Jimmy Van Bremer would want to be associated with an establishment that at least *tries* to do the right thing. Especially when there is a hate crime involved.


For all you hater you just don’t know shi. He is a good person who treats everyone = if you where not there don’t judge

Ray and Rita Normandeau

Maybe the victims can ask for a copy of the NYPD report and scan it and post it.

The report may say whether or not the injured customers were denied re-entry while awaiting NYPD

Further one report said arrested perp came to the ambulance pretending to be a police officer. Has NYPD Internal Affairs looked into this?


Shi did the right thing, if I was eating there I wouldn’t want to be bothered for any circumstances. They are not in the law enforment business. That’s a restaurant and should keep the patron safe at all time. If someone need help for what ever reason they should offer a chair to sit outside and wait for police, ambulance, major Bloomberg, relative or who ever the victim needs. The doesn’t do background check on his customer to knows they personal problem for that reason she shouldn’t assume that was a hate crime accident. How about if one of the guy was an the ex-boyfriend of that girl from two days ago, and he could loose his license, business or his entire life effort.


Van Bramer: “I know him [Shi Lee] to be a smart and community minded business owner…”

Translation: Shi Lee is a Van Bramer campaign contributor.


If we don’t have expectations of community, then we won’t HAVE community. Shame on Shi’s bouncer for not helping a person in need, let alone a CUSTOMER.


40th Street, you do know that you live in a big city where people are allowed to move freely from neighborhood to neighborhood. Similar incidents have happened in Chelsea and other parts of the city. It is very sad that in this day and age we still have idiots like these still running around in our great city.

40th Street

Another thought: Beyond what SHI should or should not have done, what does this say about LIC as a neighborhood? Is it safe for everyone? I enjoy going to LIC for dinner and drinks and to admire the Manhattan skyline from Gantry Park. I want to know that I’m safe and that my friends of all backgrounds are safe as well.


“Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who is holding his 44th birthday party at Shi Restaurant in Long Island City this evening”

That says it all, this councilman is motivated by personal interests. Shi needs to apologize for not aiding their own customers and stop defending themselves.

40th Street

If the couple is telling the truth (which seems likely), and the doorman chose not to intervene, the restaurant should release a statement explaining that the doorman’s actions do not reflect their position. Instead of denying what the doorman did, they should acknowledge that he made a terrible error of judgement. That might help their PR– denying it helps no one.

So sorry to hear that this violent hate crime happened in LIC… very disheartening…

lic resident

Shi’s an easy target just like that couple was. Hatred begets hatred begets hatred. It’s called scape-goating people.


@Keeping it real – they didn’t have to let anybody in – they could have offered to call 911 – which they refused. And look at the YELP Review posted by Chris B (who is a friend of a friend of mine – and who was there..)


Their gay friend commented on Facebook yesterday calling the attackers “guidos”. I think that is racist and I think it is an insult to this neighborhood.

It turns out that the guy who was arrested is Greek and remarks were past about the Greek also.

I think there is much more to this story than what we’ve heard.

Keeping it real

I have been refused re-entry into bars when there was a fight just going on around me. If they were drunk and then got into a fight outside, you better believe Shi didn’t let them in. My sympathy to the couple and their friend but seriously all bars function like that.


Oh please. Why would they (the couple) lie? They could have just told their story (which is powerful enough) and let it go – they would have no reason to take it to that next level to make those accusations against the restaurant unless it was true.


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