- It wasn’t the nearby shootings or the alleged license violations, but discrimination and racial bias that led to the closure of the controversial Penthouse Club, a senior employee said in an exclusive interview with the Rhode Island Relevant.
The Providence Board of Licenses shuttered the club at the end of October, citing a number of license violations, including nudity on the premises, permitting a place where liquor is sold to become disorderly, and allegations that individuals had entered after 1 a.m. over the course of three separate nights.
That ruling was overturned by the state Department of Business Regulation. But then the city board again ordered the club to ‘cease and desist’ in a vote on Jan. 3. Both votes also came days after shootings near the club.
Jacque Fleurissaint, who works as an event planner for clubs in Boston and southeastern New England, says other motives are behind the city’s actions.
He said he had been told that the club had “crossed the line.” He said another person with political power in the city—he would not name the person—had told him that the club “should go to Broad Street.” Broad Street is one of the main arteries in South Providence, in a predominantly minority neighborhood.
‘Should Go To Broad Street’
To Fleurissaint the implication is obvious, given the Penthouse’s clientele, which includes many African-American and Hispanic clubgoers.
“So is Broad Street that line? Because when you do the research and you hear what’s going on in the news, Broad Street has shootings almost every weekend and business opens right back up. There is no taking of anything. So is it like, ‘You guys live where you live and you stay where you stay,’” Fleurissaint said.
“This is where the discrimination comes in,” he added.
Fleurissaint says the facts about the two shootings that occurred near the Penthouse Club, which is located on 334 South Water Street, back up what he is saying. Far from what media reports insinuate, the shootings are unrelated to Penthouse, according to Fleurissaint.
The police report for the shooting on Oct. 28 lists the address as 385 South Main Street—not the Penthouse Club. The report states that police who were on duty outside the club heard five shots fired while they were ‘dispers[ing] an unruly crowd of patrons from the club.’ A witness told police he had seen several men arguing outside of his apartment, ending in one pulling out a gun and firing it. Police are not aware of any reported injuries.
Was Shooting Not Related?
Fleurissaint said the shooting was connected with a rave at a private residence—and therefore had nothing to do with the club.
The second shooting, in the early morning hours of Jan. 1, occurred in a parking lot on James Street near the club. One man approached two others and shot one of them. The victim’s friend or acquaintance—the heavily redacted police report doesn’t disclose the nature of their relationship—got him into the passenger seat and then sped down the wrong way on South Water Street to get to a hospital, but instead crashed into a BMW parked on the street.
As with the first one, Fleurissaint says the club had nothing to do with the shooting. However, the police report says the two men had been at the club earlier in the evening. The report cites a witness who says the shooting arose over an argument over one of the dancers at the club. (That claim has been disputed by the club’s manager, Kazeem Adediran, who described it as a ‘fairy tale’ to the Providence Journal.)
Shooting At Providence Place Mall
Either way, nearby shootings alone should not be enough to shut down the club, Fleurissaint said. He pointed to the recent shooting at the Providence Place Mall as evidence, noting that city authorities didn’t close the mall the next day and didn’t pull the liquor licenses for any of the restaurants or bars located within it.
The Relevant reached out to city spokesman Victor Morente, who did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.
James Vincent, the head of the Providence branch of the NAACP, said he was not sufficiently familiar with the facts of the case to say whether he thought the Penthouse had faced discrimination. But he said the accusation should be taken seriously.
“It should not just be cast away,” Vincent said. “It shouldn’t be poo-pooed. It should be looked at.”
From the beginning, it’s been clear that the city has it out for the Penthouse, Fleurissaint said. He said the Board of Licenses has sent the police to the club seemingly every night it’s been open. Officers tend to come repeatedly in a given night, scaring away potential customers.
“They don’t want to come in because the License Board is standing there,” Fleurissaint said. “They intimidate the crowd to where you don’t have a crowd.”