Beaver’s BBQ looking for second chance
Stars and Stripes May 5, 2008
TEOKGEO-RI, South Korea — It isn’t easy being “Beaver” Lee these days.
No one was around last week to gaze at the colorful mural, Harley-Davidson memorabilia and pictures of soldiers adorning the hardwood walls of Beaver’s BBQ restaurant.
The 2nd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade commander placed the restaurant off-limits as of April 18.
“There were several incidents within the brigade that originated from Beaver’s, and the Brigade wanted to ensure our soldiers were protected while we conducted our investigation,” said 1st Brigade spokesman Maj. Mike Nicholson.
U.S. Army Garrison-Red Cloud, also known as Area I, also placed the restaurant on its off-limits list, citing underage drinking. The Area I disciplinary control board is expected to set a hearing date soon to determine the restaurant’s permanent status.
Beaver can make his case then, Nicholson said.
Beaver, however, says he was surprised and wished someone would have called him before the off-limits order was issued.
“We try all the time to have good relations with the U.S. Army,” says Beaver, who displays an American flag that once flew in Iraq. “If North Korean spies ever came here, they kill me first, because of how much I cooperate with the U.S. Army.”
Beaver and his wife say they’ve often driven soldiers back to the base gate when they needed a ride after drinking too much.
The restaurant is located in a rural, residential area beyond Camp Hovey’s main gate, about 15 minutes from downtown Dongducheon.
It is literally a piece of the Army, Beaver says.
Beaver built his large, two-story restaurant and his nearby home by hand from wood and materials discarded at Camp Casey, opening it in 2001. The bathroom entrance is a barracks door, and the gate leading to the restaurant is made of tent poles.
Beaver says the incident that ultimately led to the ban happened when a soldier named Ryan took Mrs. Beaver’s scooter for a joyride through Dongducheon.
Ryan asked if he could try out the 49cc motor scooter.
Beaver and his wife, Yoon Eun-kyeong, also known as “Mrs. Beaver” and “Mom,” said he could if he stayed on the rural road outside the restaurant.
Instead, Ryan drove into Dongducheon, where a military policeman spotted him.
The fenders had Beaver’s BBQ stickers on them. When the policeman called and asked if the scooter was stolen, Beaver said it was not.
The next day, Beaver heard from soldiers that he was placed off limits.
“If we said it was stolen, we’d probably be in business,” Yoon said. “But we were worried about the soldier.”
“He’s a good guy,” Beaver said.
First brigade officials declined to comment on the motor scooter episode because of the ongoing investigation, but did cite multiple incident reports.
Yoon says they haven’t checked patrons for proof of age to drink; it’s simply not done in South Korean restaurants, she says. Instead, they’ve looked at the person and judged whether they’re old enough and not too drunk.
The restaurant has since posted a notice at its bar saying that soldiers under 21 are barred from drinking alcohol there.
“We didn’t know that before,” Yoon said. “We’re Korean, not Army soldiers. If we know all the Army rules, we can follow them.”