PAWTUCKET – The City Council’s Board of License Commissioners has rejected a request from the owner of Vibe Lounge & Hookah Bar at 25 Broad St. to remove a mandatory four-person police detail.
Under a multi-part agreement reached between the city and Vibe owners Victor and Leslie Silva in October, in response to multiple actions taken against the establishment for late closures and unruly and violent behavior, the owners were required to increase the number of police in a nightly detail from two to three, plus a supervisor.
At its Dec. 8 meeting, the board rejected Victor Silva’s request to remove that detail as a cost-saving measure, saying the cost of it is impacting the business and putting him in jeopardy of shutting down. Four detail officers, he said, is “a little bit of an overkill,” explaining that the club isn’t getting the same overflow volume of people as when Massachusetts was shut down due to COVID.
At a recent Friday night event where no alcohol was served and the event was over by 11:30 p.m., he said they were still required to have the detail on from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., at a total cost of $930 for the night. He said he’s spent some $29,000 on police details since June.
“I don’t know how much longer we last with the mandated detail,” he said, adding that he’s voluntarily closed at times to avoid the cost. “With everything opened back up, people are not coming here like they were before.”
Silva then requested that the details be left up to the owners’ discretion, such as on big nights like New Year’s Eve.
Councilor Mark Wildenhain then asked what happens if they decide not to have a detail and then an incident takes place. He said the city can’t afford to have groups disrupting life for residents in the area and causing problems requiring police presence at 2 a.m.
Silva also asked that the city shift the burden onto all downtown establishments, saying they should share the cost of detail officers.
Councilor Melissa DaRosa said she doesn’t see why the owners have to maintain details at odd times, at which point Councilor Terry Mercer reminded her that the board she’s on set that stipulation as part of a settlement agreement. DaRosa told Silva she hopes he understands that they can’t just leave it up to his discretion.
Capt. David Holden said that due to the nature and frequency of past events, police are looking for the police detail stipulation to continue, though he noted that there have been no incidents in two months and the owners have been very responsive.
The board ultimately decided to reduce the police detail from four to three for the next 60 days, but Silva said that won’t help him much.
Council President David Moran then asked him if he realizes why the stipulation was put in place.
“Because of what happened in the past, you can’t wipe that away,” he said, adding that the council wants to see a longer period of time with this newly clean track record.
It seems like Vibe is moving in the right direction, he said, but they can’t simply go from four officers to zero “because you’re not getting people in the door.”
Silva apologized “for the mistakes we messed up on.”
Wildenhain said the board can re-evaluate the situation at a later point.
Silva asked if the time for the police detail could be reduced to 30 days, but Mercer responded that the board will meet him in the middle, at 45 days. Police remain leery, he said, so that makes the board leery.
Mercer said the board will hopefully get back to the point of trusting the owners, saying “every single license holder starts at their discretion,” and the owners violating that trust is why the sides are at this point.