You know that famous saying from a Douglas Adams paperback: “If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.”
Adams was right—about a lot of things—and he’d probably have a lot to say about one residential neighborhood in Norwich, England, stuff like, “If a house has a sign for a Japanese restaurant and shares an address with a Japanese restaurant, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small establishment with Asian cuisine on our hands.”
Orlando Williams’ neighbors have repeatedly complained to the Norwich City Council that he’s running an unauthorized restaurant out of his house, mostly because there’s a giant illuminated sign that says “Orlando’s” over the front door, the Facebook page for the Sakura Japanese Restaurant lists Williams’ street address, and when one reporter called Williams’ home to ask if it was a Japanese restaurant, the person who answered said that it was.
Williams, though, denies all of it. He formerly ran a restaurant called Sakura—and a sign for Sakura is mounted above his front door, too—but says that no Japanese food is currently being served in his kitchen. “All I do, I have my name on my house,” he told the Eastern Daily Press. “There is no restaurant there.”
His neighbors strongly disagree. One woman said that she was “dumbfounded” when her husband told her that Williams had invited him to a launch party for the restaurant last year. “Then there is the god-awful sign that has been put up,” she said. “The amount of friends who drive past and ask me ‘What the hell has opened up next door to you?’”
The city council has tried to investigate, but on its visits to Williams’ home, no one was “able to establish whether or not it was being used as a working restaurant.” During one visit, a member of the city council’s planning committee noticed that Williams had tables set up with enough place settings for 24 people, an arrangement that he said was there in case he turned his place into a bed and breakfast.
And that’s the thing: Williams has successfully applied for a permit to run a bed and breakfast, but the issue of whether he’s also running a Japanese restaurant has yet to be resolved. “It is only once people turn up and use it as a restaurant that we can safely say it is one,” one city council member said. “Thus far we have seen no evidence that anyone has used it.”
So is it a Japanese restaurant if it looks like one, and has signs identifying it as a Japanese restaurant, but no one has been seen eating Japanese food on the property? Douglas Adams, we really wish you could weigh in on this one.