Mayor Elorza calls for liquor board chairman to resign

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) – Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza is calling on the chairman of the city’s Board of Licenses to resign after several gunshots were fired Saturday near a controversial new club on the East Side.

Juan Pichardo, a former Democratic state senator whom Elorza backed to become the board’s chairman in 2015, is not required to give up his spot on the board and his term doesn’t expire until Jan. 31, 2019. He did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

“Providence deserves leadership on our licensing board that reflects the shared values of the communities that they represent,” Elorza said in a statement. “That is why I am calling for the resignation of Juan Pichardo as chair of the Providence Board of Licensing. My administration is committed to the safety of our residents and will continue engaging the Providence City Council and neighborhood stakeholders to advance that goal.”

A spokesperson for Elorza cited as one of the mayor’s reasons for calling for Pichardo’s resignation was the chairman’s decision last week to postpone a show-cause hearing for the Penthouse club, at 334 South Water St., after the club was accused of multiple violations. That city solicitor’s office had recommended that the meeting move forward.

The shots fired incident occurred early Saturday morning, according to Providence police.

Ward 1 Councilman Seth Yurdin, who represents the neighborhood that includes the Penhouse club, said the board “has failed to keep the public safe.”

“Sadly, this recent failure by the Board is no surprise given its serious, long-standing and well-documented problems,” Yurdin said in a statement. “New leadership and members on the city’s Board of Licenses is needed immediately. I am glad to see Mayor Elorza’s call today for Juan Pichardo to resign as chair and hope the board will move forward to properly protect Providence’s residents.”

Commissioners for the five-member Board of Licenses are paid $19,713 a year – as chairman, Pichardo earns $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.

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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