video: Adult Entertainment Focus of Penthouse Hearing - Pichardo Loses Chair

Wednesday, November 01, 2017
GoLocalProv News Team

The photo Sgt. Tejada showed at the hearing, which he said shows the club is violating the adult entertainment statute.
The Providence Board of Licenses heard arguments as to whether "adult entertainment" is being offered at the recently opened East Side Penthouse -- in violation of its current license -- at a hearing on Tuesday, among other outstanding issues. 

The tense and oftentimes contentious hearing -- which did not address the recent shooting outside the club over the weekend, as the city said it is still under investigation -- saw board member Juan Pichardo ousted as Chair following Mayor Jorge Elorza's call for his resignation, and those associated with the Penthouse accusing the city and neighbors of playing politics.

"I'll tell you, I just got a better understanding of how the real world works," said Penthouse Manager Kazeem Adediran. "[The meeting] started off very awkward with that [call for Pichardo's] resignation and that letter."

The Penthouse, which remains shuttered since the shooting early Saturday morning, will remain closed until at least Thursday, at which point the Board is expected a render a decision on the most recent issues levied. Those include allegations that the club remained open after-hours illegally, and dancers at the club sported attire, or lack thereof, that the city is arguing is de facto adult entertainment. 

"This licensee was warned — told about a very specific ordinance they were told not to violate," said Mario Martone with the city. "And lo and behold they’re doing exactly what it prohibits. You give them an inch, they take a mile."

Board of Licenses Latest

GoLocalProv was first to report on the club in October, noting the new nightclub features dancers and stripper poles in one of the most historic areas of Providence, above the Mile and a Quarter restaurant which was previously occupied by the controversial Loft club. As GoLocal reported:

The new club is located close to one of Providence’s top Italian restaurants, Bacaro, right next to upscale realtor Lila Delman, and literally across the street from the new innovation center I-195 corridor. The historic building is owned by a company controlled by Andrew Mitrelis. He and his family also own Cafe Paragon, Andreas, and the now-closed Mile and a Quarter.

Tuesday's show-cause hearing focused on four incidents -- prior to the shooting -- in which city officials argued that the club violated various city ordinances. 

The board voted to remove Juan Pichardo (center) as chair.
Martone questioned Providence Police Sergeant David Tejada, who provided photos and videos which he said show female's bare backsides, which Tejada said goes against the city ordinance.

Martone, in addressing the board, warned the board against believing the club's side. 

"You’ll hear they’re 'go-go dancers,' said Martone. "Other clubs' go-go dancers are not the attraction and center of attention. [This] stage is front and center. You’re going there for the dancers."

"There's a reason adult entertainment is so heavily regulated. Study after study concludes adult entertainment brings undesirable secondary effects [which is why] you can only do in certain zones in city," said Martone. "When you start going quasi-[adult] entertainment....you still have the undesirable effects."

Both Penthouse attorney Nick Hemond -- and Adediran -- claimed Tuesday they had been reaching out to the city, including offering to take away the dancers, but that the city was playing politics.

"[Tejada's] been at the club multiple times. We've showed him around, he's seen the entertainment - multiple times - why didn't he say anything then?  This all felt like a play, like a set-up," said Adediran. 

Adediran said he believes the club will be vindicated in the shooting. 

"I'm not worried about that. The city knows they have no have nothing on us," said Adediran. "It was around the corner, we have a statement." 

Others in attendance, however, expressed concerns about the situation -- and the hearing. 

"They never took a vote to revoke, despite the recommendation from Mario [Martone]," said community activist Sharon Steele.

Steeled note that outbursts during the hearing -- and confrontations with club representatives -- left her feeling "shook up."

"It didn't use to be like this," said Steele. 

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