PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation is considering whether to let a Federal Hill nightclub reopen during its appeal, after the Providence Board of Licenses shut it down on Wednesday.
Lawyers for Club Seven and the city of Providence made arguments at a DBR hearing on Thursday morning, one day after the city licensing board revoked all licenses for the business.
The revocation came after a man was allegedly beaten and stabbed to death on June 30 shortly after leaving the club. Police said victim Stephen Cabral and the murder suspects were in the club prior to the alleged attack, though they acknowledge there’s no evidence the fight started inside.
Cabral’s family has been fighting to get the club shut down, as have the Providence Police and other local business owners on Federal Hill.
Club Seven attorney Nick Hemond revealed at Thursday’s hearing that the owner, Anthony Luisi, is actively looking to sell the business.
The landlord who owns the building, Gianfranco Marrocco, also confirmed to WPRI 12 that he is considering evicting Club Seven. He said Luisi has made all the rent payments on time, but there are other clauses in the lease, which he declined to divulge, that could allow him to evict the club.
Hemond is asking DBR for an emergency stay of the license revocations during the appeal, arguing in documents that if the club remains closed it “will result in a loss of revenue, a loss of current employees who will have to find other employment and a loss of good will with its customers.”
The club has been closed since the alleged murder on June 30.
The city’s lawyer in the matter, Mario Martone, argued Seven has repeatedly violated the terms of its licenses, including by having a DJ and loud music despite being denied an entertainment license, and for offering bottle service despite being repeatedly warned.
He also contends that there may have been a different outcome if security guards had intervened when an argument between Cabral’s group and the suspects took place outside the club, and shots were fired. Surveillance video shows the security guards ducking into the club, apparently to take cover.
“They did have the opportunity to intervene or take some sort of action,” Martone said.
The fight then moved up the street to the Walgreens parking lot where it escalated, involving up to 20 people. Police said Cabral was beaten and stabbed to death. Seven people have been charged in connection with the fight or murder, and an eighth is being sought.
Martone pointed to a security plan submitted by the club when the license was transferred to Luisi in November 2018. According to the plan, the club agreed that security guards would “remain on site until 2:20 to ensure all patrons have returned to their vehicles and left the area in an orderly fashion.”
The victim left the club around 1:48 a.m., according to surveillance video, with the suspects exiting about two minutes later.
“First the victim leaves, doesn’t leave in haste, doesn’t leave in a panic, doesn’t leave in any aggressive fashion,” Hemond told hearing officer Catherine Warren. “He just walks out.”
“This board knows full well that if you want to connect incidents that occur outside, you have to have some sort of origin within,” Hemond continued.
Martone argued that there have been problems with the club “from the day they opened” last year, causing a nuisance in the neighborhood including fights and noise problems. The club opened as Seven in July, but the liquor license was transferred to Luisi months later when he went from being the manager to the owner.
If there were so many problems, Warren asked, “why did the board allow the transfer in November?” Martone did not respond to that question.
Warren is expected to make a recommendation on the emergency stay to the DBR director, who will either accept or reject it in the coming days.
But Martone argued there is no chance the club would operate under the required conditions, even if DBR allows it to reopen.
“This business was operating in a way where they did whatever they felt like,” Martone said. “To open them back up when we know this is how they operate, how could we do that? How could you put people at risk?”