Police deem Pawtucket nightclub a ‘public nuisance’ after overnight shooting

Blackstone Valley

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The Pawtucket Police Department is demanding the city shut down Vibe Lounge after a patron was shot there early Friday morning.

Pawtucket Police Chief Tina Goncalves declared the nightclub and hookah lounge “a public nuisance,” which she has the authority to do through the city’s charter.

Police said this is the fifth violent incident at the club since February. Goncalves also noted the club has also violated several of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.

“The city and police department always prioritize working with our local businesses to help them succeed in a safe environment,” Goncalves said. “In this particular case, the business is directly affecting the surrounding neighborhood, and placing the public safety of our community in jeopardy.”

In a letter to the Pawtucket City Council’s Board of License Commissioners, Captain David Holden detailed the latest incident and requested an emergency meeting to discuss whether to revoke the nightclub’s business license.

Holden said allowing the nightclub to stay open is “a threat to public safety.”

Early Friday morning, Holden said officers responded to the club for a report of shots fired inside. He said the club’s security guard was “extremely hesitant” to allow the first officer on scene inside the club, telling her “she didn’t need to go inside” to find the victim.

Two other officers who arrived soon after were able to make their way inside the club, where they reported seeing roughly 200 patrons.

Video surveillance later reviewed by police revealed the club had violated several of the state’s COVID-19 mandates. Those violations, according to Holden, included patrons not wearing masks, dancing close together and using hookah.

Officers eventually found the shooting victim, who was outside the club’s North Union Street door. Holden said the 32-year-old man, who officers confirmed was a patron of the nightclub, had been shot five times.

While tending to the victim, Holden said a small crowd gathered around the officers. The crowd ultimately became hostile, and as more patrons began spilling out of the club and onto the street, Holden said the officers were forced to call for backup.

One of the officers “requested every available Pawtucket police officer” to come to the club and assist with crowd control.

While regaining control of the situation, officers arrested and charged two people, one from Boston and the other from Lowell, with disorderly conduct and obstruction of justice. It took officers more than an hour to clear the scene.

Police said the victim was transported to Rhode Island Hospital to be treated for non-life threatening injuries.

With Goncalves’ declaration, the Pawtucket Board of License Commissioners will hold an emergency meeting Saturday to discuss the nightclub’s future.

The Board of License Commissioners is made up of the Pawtucket City Council, which includes Councilwoman Melissa DaRosa.

DaRosa said when she learned of what had happened, she was extremely disappointed.

“At no point, when a police officer is trying to render emergency aid, should anyone be interfering in that, or be doing anything that could stop the victim from getting the help that they need,” DaRosa said.

“I want people to come to Pawtucket to enjoy their friends and family and to be able to go home and be safe,” she continued. “I want all establishments that are providing entertainment at a bar, or any place that is serving alcohol, to be in tune with what is happening.”

12 News reached out to Vibe Lounge for comment but has yet to hear back.

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