Man charged for setting beloved, five-decade-old Massachusetts Chinese restaurant on fire

Massachusetts Chinese restaurant fire
Image: Webster Fire Department
  • Wind Tiki, a nearly five-decade-old Chinese restaurant in Webster, Massachusetts, was set ablaze in the early morning of March 18.
  • Two other restaurants were targeted at around the same time.
  • Surveillance videos in the Thompson Road area helped police identify Joel Batista-Viera, 42, as a suspect.
  • Batista-Viera surrendered on Wednesday and was subsequently charged with multiple offenses.
  • Wind Tiki had been a local staple since the 1970s, drawing generations of families as its patrons.

A man has been arrested and charged in connection with a three-alarm fire that destroyed a beloved Chinese restaurant in Webster, Massachusetts, earlier this month.

Joel Batista-Viera, 42, allegedly broke into and set Wind Tiki at 154 Thompson Road on fire at around 2 a.m. on March 18. The restaurant reportedly closed at 8:30 p.m. the night before and no one was inside at the time of the incident.

Batista-Viera is also believed to have targeted two other restaurants — Mexicali Cantina Grill at 41 Worcester Road and Lake Pizza at 39 Thompson Road — on the same night. Webster police said he tried to access Mexicali’s cash registers and set the restaurant on fire with a candle.

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While Lake Pizza was targeted, no one managed to enter the business. Police recovered the restaurant’s surveillance footage.

After analyzing security videos from other establishments in Thompson Road, police zeroed in on a man who was at Mobil gas station at the time Wind Tiki was on fire. They later identified him as Batista-Viera.

Batista-Viera surrendered to Webster police on Wednesday. He was charged with two counts of larceny from a building, two counts of breaking and entering at night with intent to commit a felony, two counts of vandalizing property, one count of attempting to commit a crime, one count of burning a building, and one count of attempting to burn a building, as per court documents.

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Erected in 1974, Wind Tiki had been a staple sight in the area. Patrons expressed regret over the incident.

“It’s really sad, especially because it’s a family business,” Katie McGlynn told Boston 25 News. “I mean, not too many of those made it through the pandemic, especially the restaurants.” 

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