Police shut down crowded Prov. nightclub accused of violating COVID-19 rules

Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Providence Police say Revel Lounge & Bistro had nearly 400 patrons inside the club early Sunday morning, with many dancing and not social distancing while also not wearing masks.

Officers who responded to the club shortly after midnight said they counted 389 people in the club — noting that additional patrons had left when police arrived — and said people were not social distancing, smoking inside and failing to wear masks.

A security guard had told officers there were 187 people in the club, later saying it was 174, according to the police report.

Police reported smelling marijuana and witnessed people dancing, which is not currently allowed because of COVID-19 guidelines.

A police report says the club had “numerous” violations of Gov. Gina Raimondo’s COVID-19 orders, so officers cleared the club out shortly after midnight.

“That’s absolutely wrong,” said Johanna Arias, a manager at the club. She said she believes her two-thirds allowed capacity is 239 people, which she claims the club did not exceed.

“The way that they are punishing these businesses is really unfair because of the fact that this is a new time,” Arias said. “We’re all just trying to get through this pandemic.”

But Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré said this was the second time this month he’s used his authority to temporarily shut Revel down. The first time was on Sept. 11, after which the owners agreed to follow the rules upon reopening.

Paré said he will formally bring the case before the Providence Board of Licenses on Wednesday.

“The way they’re conducting business now is dangerous for those patrons during this pandemic,” Paré told 12 News.

Revel Lounge’s Instagram page was promoting an event with a live DJ on Saturday night. An event was also promoted for Sept. 11, when the club was promising hookah, a live DJ and free admission for women until 10:45 p.m.

The promotion for the event noted that masks were required and only eight people could be at one table.

While the governor’s latest guidelines for bars and restaurants do allow entertainment such as live music, co-mingling between patrons and getting up to dance is prohibited; all parties must be eating and drinking at their tables, which have to be spaced eight feet apart. The performer must be 14 feet away from the tables, and no standing service is allowed. Patrons are also required to wear masks while not at their tables.

Nick Hemond, attorney for the club, said he has not yet seen the police evidence that the club was violating the COVID-19 protocols. He said the owners dispute that they were violating the rules.

He said the club previously agreed to be closed for a week when it was shut down the first time for similar violations, including having hookah inside.

“There’s got to be a strong message,” Paré said of repeat offenders. “They shouldn’t be worthy of running a business in 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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