Owner of Providence’s only after-hours club suing councilwoman, liquor board

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The owner of Providence’s only after-hours club has filed suit against Councilwoman Sabina Matos and the city’s Board of Licenses claiming they “engaged in a course of unlawful conduct that exceeds the scope of authority” in an attempt to ruin his business.

Gerard C. DiSanto II, the owner of Dusk 2 Dawn on Dike Street in Olneyville, filed the lawsuit Friday in Providence Superior Court. His attorneys are Richard Nicholson and former House Speaker John Harwood.

Matos, who is being sued individually and in her capacity as a council member, is accused of defamation and placing the business in a false light by associating it with a strip club DiSanto owns separately. All of the defendants are accused of interference with an expected business advantage and violating the state’s open meetings law. DiSanto is also seeking declaratory judgments that the board acted outside its scope of authority and violated due process.

The suit claims Matos “has made it her mission” to shut the club down even though it has not been cited for any violations since he bought it in August. DiSanto claims she has damaged the club’s reputation “by speaking to commissioners of the board secretively and individually behind closed doors and in hallways as well as law enforcement.”

Dusk 2 Dawn, whose formal name is Happy Beats, Inc., is the only nightclub in the city with a license that allows it to operate from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m., but it does not have a license to serve alcoholic beverages. Instead an outside company with a state catering license is used to sell alcohol. The unusual arrangement has come under fire from critics, including Matos, who represents Olneyville.

The suit claims the board voted to restrict the catering company from selling alcohol in the club after 1 a.m. even though it does not have jurisdiction over catering licenses. (The club was seeking to allow the caterer to sell alcohol until 2 a.m.)

Reached Tuesday, Matos said she is looking forward to defend “myself and my neighborhood” in court. Emily Crowell, a spokesperson for the city, declined to comment.

Nicholson, an attorney for DiSanto, confirmed a hearing in front of Superior Court Judge Richard Licht is scheduled for next week.

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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