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Community argues against restaurant

Problems with rowdy crowds at a Providence nightclub, including reports of fights, underage drinking and weapons, may keep the owner from getting the city's permission to open another establishment in Fox Point. 

Elington Rosario wants to open Privilege Restaurant and Lounge on 345 South Water St., which he says will be "like Kartabar, but closer to the water."

Rosario is also one of three owners of Club Elements, a nightclub on Richmond Street downtown, but has ventured out on his own to open restaurant. The Providence Board of Licensing did not grant him the licensing he sought last Friday, and community members say the rejection was due to problems with the management of Club Elements. 

"The objection was the proposed owners have a lot of unresolved issues and a lot of serious issues with their own establishment," said Seth Yurdin, the city councilman for Ward 1, which includes the area that Privilege would take. "If they're not running one business properly and respectfully under the law, it doesn't seem like it makes sense for them to have the privilege of opening the second business," he said.

"It's just the owners have a reputation for running rowdy nightclubs," said Daisy Schnepel, president of the Fox Point Neighborhood Association. "So the police have a lot of trouble with the crowd, and the police have no assurance that they aren't going to do the same thing in this neighborhood."

"I don't think it would be a good fit over there," Lieutenant John Ryan, commander of Providence Police District 9, said of the restaurant.

Ryan testified to the licensing board about "underage drinking, weapons charges and a whole series of different problems" at Club Elements, Yurdin said. 

Privilege Inc., Rosario's company, wants to open the restaurant in a location currently occupied by the restaurant Chez Ben.

Rosario applied for a transfer  license, a liquor license and an extended license to allow the venue to stay open until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, according to the Providence Board of Licensing. The licenses were denied last week, but Privilege Inc. plans to appeal the decision on Monday, Rosario said.

Rosario said his proposed restaurant was not going to be a nightclub. Since this project doesn't involve the other owners of Elements, he said he didn't think incidents at the nightclub should disqualify him from opening a new restaurant.

"We've never had anyone get hurt inside or anything happen like that," he said. 
But Rosario did acknowledge that Elements has had its share of incidents and conflicts with the city. He said the club told the police when there were incidents of underage drinking or rowdy behavior and that he felt the police department and the licensing board were holding those reports against him.

"I don't understand why we have to fight the city instead of work with the city," he said. 
One incident discussed at the hearing involved a weapon in the club's parking lot.

"We own the nightclub but we can't go outside and check people's cars," Rosario said.
He also said he didn't feel he should be responsible for fights that happened blocks away from the club. 

The club and the city have also disagreed about the capacity at Elements, Rosario said.

The city initially set the capacity of the club at 254, which Rosario said left the club "empty" and "dead." An appeal to the state saw the capacity rise to 390, Rosario said, but in the interim Elements was cited for capacity violations.

Rosario said his planned restaurant would benefit the city.

"I think that will be good for the area, especially because they are bringing down the highway," he said. The state is currently relocating the interchange between I-95 and I-195, a project it has named Iway.

The restaurant and lounge would bring in tax revenue for the city, and would create jobs for students, Rosario said, adding that he hoped to employ Rhode Island School of Design and Brown students.

But the community does not seem convinced. Yurdin said he was supportive of new businesses and venues but that the issue was with the ownership. If Privilege Inc. appeals the licensing board's decision, a lot of concerned people will come out to oppose it, he added.



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