Providence lawmakers seek to close loophole that allows booze in after-hours club

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence’s effort to close a loophole that allows patrons of an after-hour club to buy alcoholic beverages even though the club does not have a liquor license has reached the State House.

Five state representatives from the capital city introduced legislation last week that would prohibit licensed catering companies from selling booze between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., adding a potential penalty of license revocation for caterers who violate the law.

The bill, sponsored by Reps. Edith Ajello, Joe Almeida, Ramon Perez, Ray Hull, and Anastasia Williams, does not specifically name Dusk 2 Dawn in Olneyville as a target, but the club is the only one in Providence with a special license that allows it to remain open long after others in the city have closed.

The legislation was referred to the House Committee on Corporations.

The club, which operates with a 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. license, came under fire late last year when then Providence Board of Licenses learned it was advertising a full bar even though it didn’t have a liquor license.

The club’s attorney, Nicholas Hemond, told the board that an outside catering company was the one selling alcoholic beverages in the establishment. Because catering licenses are awarded by the state Department of Business Regulation, Hemond said, the board did not have the authority to set restrictions on when alcohol could be sold.

“If the hospitality association or the city wants to go up and change that law at the state house, then they should do that,” Hemond said at the time. “But you can’t penalize [owner Gerard C. DiSanto II] and his business who operating within the law.”

Reached Monday, Hemond said the legislation was created specifically for Dusk 2 Dawn, noting that language in the bill blocks catering companies from serving alcohol at businesses located within 200 feet of any school or place of worship more than once per month and four times in a year. (The club is located near a church.)

“They’re targeting one business, which I think is unfortunate,” Hemond said.

Separately, DiSanto has filed suit against Councilwoman Sabina Matos and the board, claiming they “engaged in a course of unlawful conduct that exceeds the scope of authority” in an attempt to ruin his business.

Superior Court Judge Richard Licht has scheduled a hearing on the lawsuit for April 13.

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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