State allows Vault Lounge to reopen pending full hearing

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Vault Lounge can open for New Year’s Eve.

The R.I. Department of Business Regulation (DBR) on Friday granted the controversial Federal Hill nightclub’s request to stay the city licensing board’s decision to deny its request to renew its liquor license.

In a 16-page decision, DBR hearing officer Jenna Algee agreed that neighbors “should not have to tolerate public urination and defecation, noise disturbances or other similarly disturbing negative impacts,” but ruled it was “premature to determine whether or not the [Providence Board of Licenses] sufficiently established such ’cause’ to deny the renewal of the appellant’s license.”

The DBR will hold a full hearing on Vault early in 2018.

The city board voted to deny the club’s request for a license renewal last week after it was presented evidence that appears to show patrons of the club committing lewd acts in the immediate area outside of the club. Mario Martone, an attorney representing the city, said the licensing board was presented with video evidence that showed public urination, defecation and prostitution that occurred outside of the club but involved its patrons.

Providence Police Sgt. David Tejada said Vault has had an “immense adverse impact on residents” and has been a “continual drain on police resources.”

But attorneys for the club have argued the board didn’t give their clients a fair shake during the renewal process. Both Nicholas Hemond and Peter Petrarca called the board’s hearing a “trial by ambush.” At a hearing in front of Algee this week, Hemond called the process a “sham” and a “show.”

Vault is owned by Miguel and Rosemary Garcia, according to paperwork filed with Rhode Island secretary of state’s office. The couple was charged last summer after Providence police said they were illegally providing accident reports to a chiropractor’s office. Rosemary used to work in the police records department.

The club has operated out of a building located at 387 Atwells Ave. The building is owned by lawyer John M. Cicilline and Roberta Cicilline-DiMezza, who are the brother and sister of Congressman David Cicilline.

Vault has been sanctioned on at least eight occasions by the licensing board since 2013 for a wide range of violations. The club has been forced to pay nearly $8,000 in fines and has been closed for 14 days during that period.

Algee is requiring to Vault to reopen under conditions set by the city board earlier this month, including a 1 a.m. closing time on Fridays and Saturdays as well as a police detail on weekends. She said those conditions must also apply to holidays, including New Year’s Eve.

Algee is also requiring Vault to document the measures it will take to maintain restroom facilities, provide and maintain adequate trash receptacles in and around the club and prevent patrons from existing the club with bottles or cups

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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