Liquor license pending for former Shark Bar

Providence, R.I. (WPRI) – The new owner of the bar at the center of a bribery scandal is still waiting to find out if the business will be approved for a new liquor license.

On Oct. 19 the Providence Board of Licenses voted to have the bar’s license application posted for advertisement. The license request will then be advertised for two weeks before another hearing is held – possibly in November – to consider the liquor license request.

According to the license application the new owner is Silver Lining Restaurant, Inc., owned by Carlos Silva.

An attorney listed for Silva did not return a call for comment on what they planned to do with the restaurant if the license is approved.

Earlier this year Mayor Jorge Elorza successfully yanked the liquor license of Shark Bar after a federal investigation into former House Speaker Gordon Fox revealed he was was paid $52,500 when he served a vice-chair of the Board of Licenses in order to help the owners of Shark Bar & Grille secure a liquor license in 2008. Fox was also charged with wire fraud and filing a false tax return.

On Friday one of the bar’s owners – Raymond Hugh – was indicted by a grand jury for paying the bribe. Michael Lepizzera, Hugh’s attorney, said his client would plead not guilty when he is arraigned on Nov. 18.

The bar fell into receivership after it lost its liquor license. In August a superior court judge approved the sale of the restaurant to Silva for $300,000.

Tax records show the property where the bar is located on Thayer Street is up to date with its real estate taxes, but the business owes $3,700 in tangible taxes – for the equipment inside the bar. The new owners will have to square that bill up before they reopen even if under a new name.

On Friday Elorza said he was “happy” about the indictment and he has made changes within city hall in an attempt to combat corruption.

“Every single employee in the next 18 months is going to receive ethics training,” Elorza said. “We want everyone to know what you can do and what you absolutely can’t do.”

He said he has also made changes to the Board of Licenses.

“With the appointments I’ve made to the licensing board … the most important thing I look for is the person’s character, reputation in the community, that they have a reputation for honesty [and] decency,” Elorza said. “Moving forward I am absolutely committed to making sure we have people of good character and upstanding moral character that are serving on this board.”

The bar remains in the hands of Stephen Del Sesto, the court-appointed receiver until the new owners take over.

Del Sesto said he has entered into a “management agreement” with Silva that allows the new owner to take over the day-to-day operations of the restaurant but all major decisions must go through the receiver.

Full control of the bar will be handed over to Silva if a new liquor license is granted.

Tim White ( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter: @TimWhiteRI

Dan McGowan contributed to this report

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