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.”