Cilantro Thai plans to reopen at original location by end of year

Jun 6, 2022

MARION – Cilantro Thai in Marion expects to be able to re-open at its original location by the end of this year, said the owner, Varut Phimolmas.

It’s been an uphill battle for the family that owns and operates the popular Thai restaurant in Marion ever since the location was damaged in an apartment fire last October. 

The fire began in the apartment directly above Cilantro Thai at 374 Front St. No one was injured, but the restaurant, which occupies the first floor of the building, sustained some smoke and water damage, forcing it to close.

The community rallied to support the local restaurant, starting a GoFundMe that has now raised almost $19,000 to assist the restaurant and family with their financial difficulties following the incident, including the possibility of relocation.

At the time, Phimolmas said that they were looking for places to move the business in order to open sooner, and that they might have found one. They began to inquire about the location of the old Marion Sport Shop at 290 Front Street, which is owned by Frank Fletcher. 

Fletcher was willing to work with the Phimolmas family, but the location was designated as a retail space. They had to go before the zoning board to designate it for restaurant business by way of public hearing, which took place on May 26. 

This raised several concerns from neighbors about the parking, volume, hours of operation and limitations regarding the property’s location in the flood zone. 

Richard and Janet Barnes of 296 Front St. wrote a letter to the zoning board regarding their opposition.

The letter quoted a town bylaw that states that a zoning change “may not be substantially more detrimental” than the existing use.

“We believe that the detrimental impacts of increased traffic and congestion at this location on Front Street, adjacent to Tabor Academy, Veterans Memorial Park and the public boat ramp, as well as noise and odors impacting the peaceful enjoyment of the neighbors’ properties, is more than sufficient to deny this request,” the letter said.

It was also noted that even if the zoning change were to occur, there was no written guarantee that Cilantro Thai would be the restaurant that moved in there. 

Other Marion residents signed and sent in a petition, requesting the approval of the zoning change.

“It’s real, authentic Thai food you can’t get anywhere else in the area. Varut and his family are incredible, wonderful community members and we miss their delicious food,” the petition said.

“We never expected to have this kind of situation,” said Phimolmas. “We need to find somewhere to get back to our business as soon as possible.”

Cynthia Callow, a member of the zoning board, stated that even if they approved the zoning change, there would be other hoops for Phimolmas to jump through regarding conservation.

“It would be a great thing for everyone if you went back to your old location,” said Callow. “We don’t want you to leave the town, we don’t want to see [your business] in Mattapoisett or Rochester or any place else.” 

Phimolmas said then that he would soon meet with their previous landlord, Dr. Chuong Pham, and that would determine whether they could move back to the old location.

The board put the hearing on hold until further notice, and following the meeting, Phimolmas reached out to residents through a Facebook post to let them know that they had permission from Pham to move back to their previous location at 374 Front St. upon the completion of repairs. 

“​​It is too early to know the exact reopening schedule,” Phimolmas told Sippican Week. “Our family only expects that we can re-open by the end of this year.” 

He did add that nothing was confirmed regarding their reopening date and move in, however he plans to share further information as soon as he knows the date. 

As for the donation, Phimolmas says that he will “utilize this donation wisely” when it comes to reopening costs, and that it will help his family in a lot of ways.