Bar at center of Fox bribery scandal files for receivership; can remain open for now

Shark Bar & Grille on Thayer Street in Providence. (photo: WPRI 12/Walt Buteau)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A Superior Court judge has appointed a temporary receiver for the Thayer Street restaurant at the center of a bribery scandal involving former House Speaker Gordon Fox.

Lawyers for Bahij Bourtros, a 50% shareholder in Shark Bar & Grille, filed a petition with Judge Michael A. Silverstein to place the business in receivership Monday, arguing that without a liquor license, the bar has no value, according to temporary receiver Stephen Del Sesto.

“In this case, this petition was filed in large part by one of shareholders to stop the licensing hearing that was going on today,” Del Sesto told WPRI.com.

The city’s Board of Licenses was expected to consider voiding the bar’s business licenses Monday afternoon in light of Fox’s admission that he accepted $52,500 in bribes in order to award the bar a liquor license when he was vice-chair of the board in 2008. At the meeting, Stephen Ryan, an attorney for the city, said Silverstein issued a stay that prevents the board from taking any action Monday.

Ryan said the city planned to file a motion asking Silverstein to allow the city to proceed with its plan to void Shark’s licenses by the end of the day.

Del Sesto said the receivership filing means the bar can remain open for the time being. He said he plans to meet with employees and review the businesses financial records in the coming days.

He said Shark’s other shareholder did not join Boutros’ receivership petition, but also did not object to the request.

Earlier this month, Fox was charged with bribery, wire fraud and filing a false tax return and reached a plea deal in exchange for a three-year prison sentence. Fox would be sentenced June 11 if U.S. District Court Judge Mary Lisi signs on the agreement he reached with the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Law enforcement officials have never named the three partners who bribed Fox, but corporate filings list Boutros and Ray Phillip Hugh are Shark’s owners. A third man, Joseph Dalomba, was listed as a partner in Shark in 2008, but has not appeared in the company’s corporate filings since 2011.

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

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