Karma violence spurs nightclub closures

Jewelry District nightclubs face scrutiny after recent string of violent gang activity

Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Nightclubs in the Jewelry District have come under scrutiny and now must comply with new restrictions following several violent incidents, including a gang shooting at the nightclub Karma that left two victims critically injured, the Providence Journal reported.

The events at Karma — which led to its forced closing in January — “made the board realize the extent of what can happen to people at nightclubs,” said Major David LaPatin, commanding officer of the Investigative Division at the Providence Police Department, adding that restrictions on nightclubs have increased this year.

Arthur Salisbury, president of the Jewelry District Association, said that while nightclubs are an important aspect of the “vibrant nightlife” of the Jewelry District, “we have had some very serious problems with the nightclubs that were here.” Only 16 of the 22 nightclubs that were open at the beginning of the year within a 900-foot radius of the Jewelry District have remained open following Karma’s closing, he added.

An additional application for a club on Richmond Street was rejected due to uncertainty about the owner’s qualifications, he said.

Salisbury said he is not opposed to existing nightclubs. “We like them and we like the activity on the street at nights, as long as it is good activity,” Salisbury said.

“We are looking for a vibrant and active nightlife and want good nightclubs and restaurants,” he added.

“The youth has to be entertained in a city of our size,” LaPatin said. “However, it comes to a point where there is drinking, masses of people, and you’re always going to have arguments and fights.”

“If a club fails to control their patrons like they should, then there can be some injuries,” he added.

“I have been to nightclubs in Providence a handful of times for Brown events and for the most part have always felt safe,” said Hayley Flug ’17. But she recounted one time last October when her friend was “caught in a scramble with other nightclub-goers and the security accidently tazed my friend’s head.”

Problems often begin when gang members frequent the district’s nightclubs, Salisbury said.

While nightclubs do not necessarily promote gang violence, there are certain attributes of a club — like genre of music played or locations of club advertisements — that might attract gang members, Salisbury said.

Some of the new restrictions imposed by the JDA on nightclubs include interviews and background checks of potential club owners, Salisbury said. The JDA is committed to “promoting and supporting the good clubs,” he added.

JDA’s most recent monthly meeting focused on nightlife problems extending into Federal Hill, Salisbury said. The JDA has been working with community leaders in Federal Hill since early August to deal with a handful of restaurants that are not legally nightclubs but are running as such, Salisbury said. These restaurants — like the $3 Bar, which had its license suspended in July after a violent incident — are “hurting the economic development of Federal Hill,” he said.

Members of the City Council and Mayor Angel Taveras expressed concerns about these businesses that mirror nightclubs, suggesting they do not belong on Federal Hill, the Providence Journal reported.

Some students acknowledge that nightclubs are a growing part of college social life. “The social scene on College Hill has transformed into a social scene all over downtown Providence,” said Oliver Swig ’17. But he said the nightclubs he has been to in Providence are “not as energetic” as those in other metropolitan areas and “are lacking in ambiance and general customer support.”

While Swig said he thinks there should be a greater sense of security at nightclubs in Providence given recent violent incidents, he does not think systems currently in place, such as metal detectors at club entrances, will solve the problem. “I would not like to see more nightclubs in Providence,” he said.

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