Councilman: City needs new solutions for nightlife violence after 2 stabbings

Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — After two more late-night establishments were shuttered this past weekend, a city councilman wants the city and nightclub owners to revisit how to prevent violence outside clubs.

Noah Lounge and the Rooftop at Providence G were both temporarily closed by the Providence Board of Licenses after separate stabbings involving patrons at the respective businesses.

Councilman David Salvatore, D-Ward 14, said he wants the council to “revisit” strategies deployed in 2012 after the city commissioned a report on the Board of Licenses.

The report, written by former Attorney General Jeffrey Pine, found a host of problems at the board, including the fact that the chairman at the time, Juan Pichardo, was an elected state senator.

The board has since implemented some of the recommendations, including changing the location and time of the meetings to allow more public participation. The current chairman, Dylan Conley, is also a lawyer. The report recommended that the chair and at least one other member of the board have a legal background.

“There’s nothing left to do that we haven’t already done in the Pine Report,” Conley said Monday.

Salvatore also said the licensing board should work with club owners to find new ways to prevent violent incidents in the vicinity of the establishments.

“We can’t just pin the blame on the club owner,” Salvatore said. “We have an opportunity to work with not only the establishment or the venue, but folks who own the parking areas.”

At the G Rooftop, Providence police say the suspect and victims had an argument inside the bar and were separated and escorted out of the building. But the groups encountered each other in the parking garage, where the altercation continued, according to the police report.

One suspect got a knife from his car and stabbed a man. Security guards witnessed the stabbing and chased one of the suspects, pepper spraying him. Police responded to the building and found the victim bleeding in the lobby of the building at 2 a.m., according to the report.

At the Noah Lounge, a report says an officer saw a disturbance in front of the Broad Street club around 2 a.m. on Saturday, which dispersed as police approached. At about the same time, a detail officer at Rhode Island Hospital said three victims walked into the hospital and said they’d been stabbed at Noah Lounge.

Police found blood spattered on the sidewalk outside the club.

No suspects have been charged in either case, according to the reports, and both establishments were temporarily shut down by the licensing board.

Noah Lounge was scheduled to have a hearing before the board on Monday, but it was continued to Wednesday. The club will remain closed in the meantime.

The Rooftop was added to the agenda at Monday’s licensing hearing, where the board voted to allow the business to reopen for a private event Monday evening. The bar still cannot open to the public, pending a determination by the public safety commissioner as to whether there is a public safety risk.

The board is also voted to continue until Wednesday a hearing on Flow nightclub, where a man was shot inside last week. The club, which was closed on a temporary basis, is allowed to reopen in the meantime. A police detail is required on weekends.

Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré said while these specific incidents are still under investigation, nightclubs in general should be responsible for their patrons not just when they’re inside the club, but also after they leave.

“If you have two parties that are fighting … you have a greater responsibility other than just throw them out of your club and be done with it,” Paré told WPRI 12 on Monday. “You have a responsibility as a licensee to ensure that the fight or violence doesn’t increase. Just because they’re outside the club doesn’t alleviate your responsibility.”

He said police have responded to disturbances related to the G Rooftop before. The rooftop bar changes into a club atmosphere late-night, with a DJ and a dance floor. (The GPub in the basement of the G building has a separate liquor license, which was not suspended following the rooftop incident.)

Salvatore said potential solutions could involve more private security and police detail, along with upgrades like lighting in parking lots.

“There’s not only a human cost to these acts of violence, there’s a financial cost,” Salvatore said. “Any time one of these acts of violence takes place, we’re diverting public safety resources.”

Paré pointed out that the city doesn’t have enough police officers to provide details at every nightclub. Officers can sign up for requested details only when they are not working, and Pare said sometimes it can be difficult to fill all the detail requests.

Nick Hemond, an attorney who represents multiple nightclubs including Flow and Noah Lounge, said the violence is a “law enforcement, societal issue” not just a problem with clubs.

“It is not the establishment that is the problem, it’s the nature of people,” Hemond said. “You have to look to the people that are doing this, not the location they’re at.”

Hemond said he didn’t have enough information yet to comment on Saturday’s stabbing outside Noah Lounge.

The Board of Licenses also recently shut down a Federal Hill nightclub, Club Seven, after a patron was murdered up the street after leaving the club. The club’s owner is appealing the decision to the Department of Business Regulation, which sides with clubs in appeal decisions more often than it does with the city.

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

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