Providence liquor board permanently closes Foxy Lady; appeal expected

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Providence Board of Licenses has voted to close the Foxy Lady strip club for good following the prostitution-related arrests of three female dancers last week.

The board voted 3-1 at a meeting Wednesday afternoon to revoke all of the Chalkstone Avenue establishment’s business licenses, a decision that forces the prominent club to close. Only Peter Mancini, a former city councilman, voted against revoking the license.

Fausto Anguilla, an attorney for the Foxy Lady, said the club will likely appeal the board’s decision. The club has been around for decades, making it nearly synonymous with adult entertainment in Providence.

The club was initially closed after three women were charged with misdemeanors Dec. 11 for allegedly soliciting undercover Providence police officers for sex inside the club. Mayor Jorge Elorza supported the police department’s request to revoke the club’s licenses, accusing management at the Foxy Lady of running a “full-on prostitution ring.”

But during two previous hearings, Anguilla argued that the police department never proved that sex was occurring inside the club’s private rooms. He said some dancers tell patrons things simply to get them into a private room for a dance, which is legal and results in them earning more money.

Mario Martone, the city’s prosecutor, argued club management was well aware that dancers were soliciting men for sex and that “the house” receives a cut of what the women are paid.

“It wasn’t a situation where five officers went in and it only happened once,” Martone said earlier this week. “It was three for three.”

After board Chairman Dylan Conley read several findings of fact in the case, the three other board members – Charles Newton, Mancini and Delia Rodriguez-Masjoan – offered their thoughts on the case. (The fifth position on the board is currently vacant.)

Newton said he was “hesitating” on his decision, in part because he considered the three incidents to be a pattern. But he said he was open to the club taking corrective action to ensure prostitution doesn’t happen again. He later said, “I want to be severe, but not draconian.”

Rodriguez-Masjoan, the only female member of the board, made the motion to revoke all of the licenses, arguing that it appeared the club was blaming the dancers for their actions and taking no responsibility.

Mancini, a former council president from Ward 14, called it “outrageous” that the board was considering closing the Foxy Lady when other establishments have had violent incidents and not been shut down. At one point, he directed his frustration toward the police department.

“Why did it take them 34 years to go in and find what was going on?” he asked.

Conley said he wasn’t sure whether the board should revoke all of the club’s licenses – which includes authorization for alcohol, food and adult entertainment – or just focus on the adult license. But Rodriguez-Masjoan argued all of the licenses were related.

The decision means the club must remain closed, putting at least 200 employees out of work.

The appeal process is made complicated by the fact that the Foxy Lady has an adult entertainment license.

Traditionally the board’s decisions on liquor licenses are appealed to the R.I. Department of Business Regulation. But Anguilla said he believes the adult entertainment license must be appealed to the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

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Dan McGowan (dmcgowan@wpri.com) covers politics and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Twitter: @danmcgowan

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