The owner of Moshe Dragon, a Chinese kosher restaurant in Rockville, is negotiating to sell his restaurant, which has been mired in controversy for almost a year over the presence of allegedly non-kosher ducks.

Owner Lenny Ung said his business has declined sharply since the controversy began.

Ung confirmed that the business may be sold to Iranian Orthodox Jews who own Royal Restaurant, a kosher restaurant in Baltimore County. Neither the restaurant owners nor their attorney, Avraham Hoshander, could be reached for comment yesterday.

Some of Ung's Jewish friends have planned a farewell dinner for him Sunday night at the restaurant, which Ung opened in 1988.

"He called me up and told me he was selling," said Judith Colp, who is organizing the dinner for Ung, 29. "I just thought it would be nice for the community to show its support and say farewell to him."

Ung, an ethnic Chinese from Cambodia, enjoyed the enthusiastic support of Washington-area Jews who keep kosher until allegedly non-kosher ducks and receipts from a non-kosher supplier were found in his kitchen.

To be considered kosher, poultry must be ritually slaughtered and sold by merchants approved by rabbis. Men known as mashgiachs ensure that kosher restaurants comply with the complicated laws of kashrut, which are derived from the Book of Leviticus.

Months of controversy followed the finding of the receipts. The Orthodox Rabbinical Council of Washington absolved Ung of any wrongdoing and fired Mike Mayer, the mashgiach who had reported the alleged violations. Others sided with Mayer and accused the rabbis of engaging in a coverup.

The debate has continued through the spring. Earlier this month, a group of Reform and Conservative rabbis issued a statement saying they believed the restaurant was kosher "at the present time." As they were issuing their statement, however, another mashgiach complained of violations.

Ung said he wants to continue in business, but, "I can't afford no more now. You try to do the best you can. What can I do?"