Sen. Pichardo tapped to lead Providence Board of Licenses

From left to right, Providence Board of Licenses members Delia Rodriguez-Masjoan, Sen. Juan Pichardo and Luis Peralta. (Photo by Dan McGowan/WPRI 12)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The revolving door of leadership at the Providence Board of Licenses continued Monday when Sen. Juan Pichardo was voted in as chairman of the powerful panel.

Pichardo, who has represented South Providence in the Rhode Island Senate since 2003 and was appointed to the licensing board in 2013, will be the fourth chairman of the heavily scrutinized board in 19 months. He replaces the Rev. Jeffrey Wiliams, who resigned in May when he became a bishop.

Charles Newton was voted vice-chairman of the five-member board.

While leadership changes are ultimately up to the board, the mayor typically has a say in selecting a new chair. A spokesman for Mayor Jorge Elorza said Monday the mayor welcomes Pichardo to his new role. Pichardo endorsed Elorza in the race for mayor last year.

Commissioners for the Board of Licenses are paid $19,713 a year – as chairman, Pichardo will earn $26,850 – and generally meet about three times each week. The panel processes more than 8,000 licenses each year and handles disciplinary matters, such as punishment for underage drinking or fights in bars.

The board came under fire earlier this year when former House Speaker Gordon Fox admitted he accepted $52,500 in bribes to help an East Side restaurant obtain a liquor license in 2008 while he served as vice-chair of the board.

Fox is now serving a three-year prison sentence for bribery, wire fraud and filing a false tax return. No one from the restaurant, Shark Bar & Grille, has been charged.

After Fox was charged, Elorza said he would seek to strip Shark of its business licenses, but a Superior Court judge placed the restaurant into receivership and blocked the board from taking action. Last week the court-appointed receiver of Shark said the restaurant has been sold and would seek a new liquor license from the city.

In addition to Pichardo and Newton, the licensing board’s other members are Delia Rodriguez-Masjoan, Johanna Harris and Luis Peralta.

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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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