Shooting, Stabbing Get Licenses Revoked for Aqua, Van Gogh Nightclubs in Providence

Thursday, September 08, 2016


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Sen. Juan Pichardo, Chair of Providence Board of Licenses (File Photo: GoLocalProv)

The Providence Board of Licenses voted on Wednesday to revoke the licenses for both Aqua and Van Gogh after a shooting and stabbing at each location, respectively. 

Van Gogh had been placed on a 72-hour emergency closure following a stabbing outside the establishment early on the morning of August 20; Aqua had been closed following a shooting inside the club on August 15. 

Nick Hemond, the lawyer for Aqua, said he is contesting the decision made on Wednesday, and expects Van Gogh will do the same. 

“We're absolutely appealing - it's clearly an excessive penalty that's not connected to the law or fact,” said Hemond. “It’s unfortunate that yet again another establishment has to go to [the Department of Business Regulations] to clean up the mess made by the Board of Licenses.  Van Gogh will be there as well. I'm filing an appeal today.”

Sharon Steele, a Providence real estate consultant and public advocate who regularly attends BOL meetings, said she was shocked by the decision to close Aqua. 

“Even from my perspective,  Aqua’s license should not have been revoked,” said Steele. “There was one shot discharged at the ceiling, the owner did everything he could to help get the bad guys. So I expect Hemond will appeal and overturn it.”

Latest at Board of Licenses 

The decisions come following a recent spate of violence at the clubs, which GoLocal covered at the end of August: 

Reports of a Providence nightclub stabbing over the weekend - as well as a drug bust - has Board of Licenses members weighing in on the most recent spate of crime and violence at the city's clubs, with widely diverging opinions as to how they are handled.

SLIDES: See Recent Episodes of Crime, Violence at Providence Clubs HERE

A purported stabbing outside of Van Gogh lounge came just hours after a cocaine sting at Tel Aviv Lounge - and on the heels of incidents at Flow as well as The Vault, which is in the building formerly co-owned by Congressman David Cicilline, and now solely owned by his brother, which saw those clubs closed for several days and then ordered to have police detail for a limited number of weekend, and reopened.

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Lawyer Nick Hemond

On Tuesday, GoLocal reported that board member (and former board chair) Johanna Harris expressed concerned about the inconsistency of penalties.  

Board Chair State Senator Juan Pichardo stood by his decision to revoke the licenses on Wednesday. 

“So essentially the board today [revoked] the license of Aqua based on the history and the public safety issue and a gun being discharged inside the lounge. Based on that, and the concerns for patrons — I take very seriously a gun going off inside an establishment - we revoked the license,” said Pichardo.

“Van Gogh had a lengthy history, going back to Monet,” said Pichardo of the locations’ former name. “Just last year there was a shooting there, they had a fifty day suspension back then."

Pichardo acknowledged however that the entities hacw the right to an appeal. 

“Entities have the opportunity to appeal to a higher board if they choose, but from my perspective — and being on the board for several years -- we are supposed to ensure we look at the facts and discipline based on progressive discipline,” said Pichardo, referring to the board taking into consideration a club’s prior record.

“We want to make sure the discipline is progressive, and they understand there's a great responsibility that licensees have. DBR looks at this, and yes [clubs] can appeal but we hope they uphold those decisions -- we know the concerns at the local level. and we want a vibrant nightlife and confidence in the public’s safety," said Pichardo.


Related Slideshow: Providence Clubs and Reports of Crime and Violence - 2016

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August 20

Van Gogh Nightclub

The Providence Board of Licenses voted on Saturday at an emergency hearing to shutter the Harris Avenue establishment for 72 hours, after a man was taken to the hospital with stab wounds following a fight in the vicinity of the club in the early hours of Saturday morning. 

"When folks started calling me, I thought they were reaching out about Tel Aviv -- I had no idea yet another incident had occurred," said Providence Board of Licenses member Johanna Harris, of hearing from people on what she thought was the separate incident that occurred at another Providence club just the night before (see next slide).

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August 19


The South Water Street establishment was raided by Providence Police on Friday night, following a weeks-long narcotics investigation. reported that two men were arrested - Theo Spyridis, 39, the bar’s manager, and Antonio Reverdes, 47, a customer -- and according to police, with a "good amount of cocaine and significant amount of cash."

Tel Aviv will now go before the city’s Board of Licenses at an upcoming meeting.

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August 15


Providence’s Board of Licenses ordered Aqua Hookah Lounge to temporarily close following a violent incident earlier in August - marking the second instance of an issue violence at the establishment. 

Providence police told a passing officer heard a gunshot and saw people running from the establishment on Broad Street.

Police said a bullet grazed a man in his arm, but the wound was not serious. The Board decided to close the club for 72 hours -- and revisit the issue. 

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August 8


The police report for the August 8 incident at FLOW nightclub at Cranston Street and Potters Avenue --  that included four stabbing victims -- described victims as saying they were leaving the club at the time the altercation took place.

The club was closed for three days, and at the August 16 Board of Licenses' continuation of the show-cause hearing, the club entered into a deal with the City that would include police detail during a 45 day review period -- but that the stabbings would not go on Flow's record. 

"The biggest travesty is they took a witness who'd been subpoenaed  -- and appeared -- and they released him," said Jewelry District Association President Sharon Steele, who attends nearly all Board of License hearings. "Then the city and the club came together on a "recommendation" out in the hall. No witness, no detective testimony, and [the city] allowed them to say it was purely a disturbance of the public but it wasn't a stabbing at the club." 

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June 21

Vault Nightclub

The Providence Board of Licenses voted on July 21 to close The Vault nightclub on Federal Hill for an additional five days following a shooting outside the club -  after a bouncer admitted to lying to police about the shooter having been inside, saying he was told by club management to lie. 

The embroiled Providence hotspot, which is in a building formerly co-owned by Congressman David Cicilline and now solely owned by his brother John, was slated to have a ruling made ten days following a July 15 meeting, but the city unexpectedly moved it up earlier. 

On Thursday, the Board of Licenses voted to shut Vault for five days, from July 27 to 31, reduce the weekend closing time from 2 a.m. to 1 a.m. for 60 days -- and required the club to increase security, and pay up $2000 fine.  


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