Metro, News

City revokes Penthouse nightclub’s licenses following violations

Nightclub loses licenses following multiple violations, complaints from neighborhood association

By
Contributing Writer
Monday, November 6, 2017

At a hearing Nov. 2, the city’s Board of Licenses unanimously revoked all licenses of the Penthouse nightclub, owned by 334 South Water LLC, for incidents that occurred between Sept. 30 and Oct. 22. The delayed revocation of the nightclub’s licenses, along with other failures of the Board of Licenses, led to Mayor Jorge Elorza’s calling for the resignation of the board’s chair Juan Pichardo, who resigned Nov. 2.

Vice Chair Charles Newton said at the hearing that Penthouse had multiple counts of four violations: a breach of conditions on their liquor license, disorder, late hours of operation and nudity on premises where alcohol is being served. The board also took note of the nightclub’s history in making its decision, Newton added. The state’s Department of Business Regulation issued a sanction against the club Aug. 1, 2016. It also received a warning regarding a nudity ordinance.

“The continuing nature of the same violations after contact with the police (is) indicative of a lack of responsibility and lack of concern for the welfare of the public,” Newton said, adding that this decision would also preclude 334 South Water LLC from applying for licenses in the future.

Commissioner Dylan Conley added that the board should take into account the administrative record of both the owner of the nightclub and its managerial staff for past incidents.

An emergency board meeting Oct. 28 ordered the club to close for 72 hours due to shots fired after 2 a.m. the night before, as reported by the Providence Journal. Sgt. David Tejada said at the emergency meeting that police found five bullet  shell casings near the club. According to the meeting’s minutes, the board ordered Penthouse to temporarily close Oct. 31 until the board’s final meeting Nov. 2.

In an Oct. 28 statement, Elorza said he would recommend the board revoke all of Penthouse’s licenses for good. Elorza was disappointed by the Department of Business Regulation’s overturning of the Board of Licenses decision to revoke the nightclub’s liquor license  — which was named “The Loft” at the time — in April.

Local neighborhood associations also encouraged the revocation of the nightclub’s licenses. In a statement addressed to the board Oct. 25, the College Hill Neighborhood Association wrote: “We strongly oppose this entertainment license and request that the license be revoked and that future requests for renewal be denied.” The CHNA wrote the club was located within 200 feet of many residences, in which “Providence zoning laws prohibit both nightclub and adult use.” The CHNA also wrote that it had received complaints from residents as a result of excessive noise and public nuisance. In an email sent to The Herald after the gunshots Oct. 28, CHNA President Josh Eisen wrote, “we were already concerned, and shots fired definitely increases those concerns.”

Sharon Steele, vice president of the Jewelry District Association and neighborhood realtor, said the surrounding neighborhood had dealt with Penthouse’s issues since February. “There has been a continual and habitual pattern of violence literally for all of 2017,” she said. Steele added that the police force has been very cooperative with residents throughout, but the board was not cooperative.

There are now only three nightclubs in the Jewelry District, Steele said, compared to 10 in 1997. “We systematically closed the other seven because they were a scourge on the neighborhood.”

“It’s a discrimination issue,” the owner of Penthouse, Stamatould Mitrelis,  said to NBC 10 News in response to her treatment in theEast Side. “They do not want certain people of color in the neighborhood.”

“There is not one ounce of truth to that statement,” Steele said, responding to Mitrelis’ statement. “The East Side is one of the most diverse communities … because of Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design (and) all of the hospitals.”

In a news release from Oct. 30, Councilman Seth Yurdin, whose ward includes the club, said the Oct. 28 gunfire incident “occurred just a day after (the) City’s Board of Licenses failed to move forward with a hearing to revoke the club’s license” and a month after the board issued the club licenses despite objection from the Providence Police Department.

Councilman Yurdin wrote in an Oct. 19 letter addressed to Elorza that the board has been performing poorly despite efforts by the Elorza administration due to “larger underlying issues of poor recordkeeping, out-of-date policies and procedures and insufficiently trained board members.” Due to these failures, “it is extremely difficult for the board to uphold its duty to enforce our licensing laws and promote safe and responsible nightlife in Providence.”

In a statement released on Oct. 30, Elorza called for the resignation of Juan Pichardo as chair of the Board of Licenses. “Providence deserves leadership on our licensing board that reflects the shared values of the communities that they represent,” Elorza said. Pichardo resigned Nov. 2.

“We were working in a way that was very progressive along with everyone here,” said Pichardo at the Nov. 2 meeting. “I was disappointed … to come here and be removed as chair.”

Representatives from the Board of Licenses and Penthouse nightclub did not respond to multiple requests for comment by The Herald.