Board of Licenses to rule on fate of Federal Hill club next week

Providence

The family of Stephen Cabral watches as the Board of Licenses discusses the fate of Club Seven.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Providence Board of Licenses will rule next Wednesday on whether to permanently close Club Seven, a Federal Hill nightclub located near where a young man was stabbed to death last month.

The Spruce Street club, where police say victim Stephen Cabral and the murder suspects were patrons, has been temporarily shuttered since the alleged murder on June 30 that took place down the street.

The city is aiming to close the club for good.

“We have a situation that is completely tragic and completely unfortunate,” Associate City Solicitor Mario Martone said. “And we have an establishment that has created an environment of irresponsibility that is completely unacceptable and this board cannot continue to allow them to operate.”

Tuesday’s hearing offered a window into the final hours of Cabral’s life, when he was inside Club Seven with friends. The city played video of Cabral and his friends entering the club around 11:20 p.m. and then sitting around a table being served drinks.

The video show bartenders serving bottles of Patron—occasionally flaming with sparklers—to Cabral and his friends. Martone and Sgt. David Tejada said this amounted to illegal bottle service, which the club has been sanctioned for in the past.

The video also shows a DJ and flashing laser lights, which the city says is a violation because the club has been denied an entertainment license.

What the video does not show is any sort of dispute between Cabral’s group of friends and the group of suspects, who were also inside the club and would allegedly kill him before the night was over.

“Anything that was in camera range, I did not see any evidence of anything inside of the club,” Detective Theodore Michael said in testimony before the board.

A sixth suspect, Antonio Fortes, was arrested for murder on Tuesday. Five other suspects have already been arraigned on murder and conspiracy charges and held without bail, and police say they are seeking to arrest two more suspects.

Another camera angle shows Cabral and his friends leaving the club at 1:48 a.m., less than two minutes before the suspects also exit. Across the street from the club, the group can be seen reacting to something that police say was several gunshots fired “right out in front of the establishment.”

Police have not identified the person who fired the shots, nor have they said if it was directly connected to the dispute between Cabral and the suspects.

A third camera, owned by Caserta Pizzeria, shows the two groups of people walking up Spruce Street away from the club and towards the Walgreens parking lot where police allege Cabral was beaten and stabbed to death.

Michael said the “physical altercation” that preceded the death involved up to 20 people. Police have not identified all of the people involved.

Cabral’s family once again attended the hearing, holding photos of the 28-year-old man. The family has called for the club to be shut down, as have police and neighborhood groups.

In his closing argument, Martone said Seven is “an establishment that is either incapable of following the rules or simply disregards the rules.” He brought up not only the bottle service and unlicensed entertainment but also the video of what he believed to be inefficient pat-downs to check for weapons before patrons enter the building.

“This is all about one thing and one thing only,” Martone said. “He’s losing money. It’s the only thing they’re concerned about.”

He referenced testimony from Tejada, who is part of the police licensing unit, who said the club had attempted various methods in the past of violating the bottle service ban, including pouring the liquor into glass carafes before serving it.

“They’re not concerned about people drinking themselves, having bottle after bottle. Look at the pattern. This place was intent on getting away with it.”

Nick Hemond, the attorney for Seven, said the licensing board should sanction the club for the bottle service and entertainment violations but argued the 16 days the business has already been closed is punishment enough.

He said the board shouldn’t sanction the club for the alleged murder, arguing the city has shown no “causal connection” between the violence and the club.

“They exit calmly, there’s no indication they’re chasing him,” Hemond argued. “This is not a case where you can sanction them for what happened in the Walgreens parking lot.”

After announcing that it would be making a ruling next Wednesday, the board voted to keep the club shuttered until then. Hemond said he may file an emergency appeal to the state Department of Business Regulation.

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) covers Providence, politics and more for WPRI 12. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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