EAST PROVIDENCE — After nearly four hours of marathon debate and testimony spread over two meetings, the East Providence City Council Tuesday night, March 4, voted unanimously to revoke the troubled East Bay Tavern’s license to operate with immediate effect.
The status of East Bay Tavern, located on Lyon Avenue, was previously discussed at a special Council session held last week, Wednesday night, Feb. 26. Then, the Council, unable to conduct a public show-cause hearing on the matter due to the inability of the defendant’s counsel to be present and to some evidentiary discovery issues, opted to allow the bar to remain open with stipulations.
Tuesday, with East Bay Tavern represented by city attorney William C. Maaia and all evidence having been shared, the Council rendered its verdict after some three hours of discussion, voting to rescind the ability of the bar to do business despite the fact that the call for the show-cause hearing was actually its first official offense.
All five members of the Council spoke on the topic, each expressing an array concerns about the severity of the situation. They were responding to the testimony presented by East Providence Police Chief Joseph Tavares and four of his officers about the most recent incident at the Tavern, an alleged stabbing that took place late in the evening of Friday, Feb. 7.
The testimony of law enforcement included the submission of what the chief termed “stacks” of reports and complaints about the Tavern from recent years as well as security video from the bar on the night of the alleged incident, which appeared to show a man being attacked by a group of other males. The alleged victim was shown taken from the premisses by what were described as family members and friends. He was later discovered by Providence Police at Hasbro Children’s Hospital being treated for what were consistent with stab wounds.
East Providence Police, in the early morning hours of February 8, took up the investigation both at the hospital and at the Tavern. At Hasbro, the victim admitted to EPPD he had been attacked in an East Providence establishment, his description of the premisses closely matching that of the East Bay Tavern layout. EPPD investigators later obtained the video evidence as well.
At no time during or after the alleged incident did Tavern manager, Stephen Tague, call the police to report the matter, something Chief Tavares said he and the former had agreed upon after past events of a similar nature had taken place at the bar. Mr. Tague, who consistently denied knowing about the stabbing, repeatedly throughout the hearing admitted to “dropping the ball” in not contacting the proper authorities in a timely manner.
East Bay Tavern, the chief said, showed a “pattern of behavior that should not be tolerated without being sanctioned.” He acknowledged it’s “not easy” to operate a bar, “but it is inexcusable” for Mr. Tague and bar management not to communicate with police on such matters. The Council was also told EPPD had made four arrests pertaining to the incident, one of the perpetrators having pleaded to charges.
In his remarks, Attorney Maaia attempted to poke holes in the testimony of the officers and the chief, noting inconsistencies with what they said Tuesday as opposed to what was in the report on the alleged incident and that they offering “opinion not facts.” He also stated that in the eight years under the management of Mr. Tague, the Tavern had not been cited once and should not receive such a debilitating penalty as immediate closure.
Mr. Maaia’s words had little affect on the Council, which eventually voted to shutter the bar.
Mr. Maaia immediately asked for a copy of the ruling, which is needed for him to appeal the decision on behalf of his client to the state liquor board.
While taking up the matter last week, Councilors Chrissy Rossi, Tommy Rose and Helder Cunha each took turns railing against the establishment, which was the scene of the recent stabbing incident as well as another like incident in late 2012 among many other events of lesser degree that needed police attention.
Mrs. Rossi said she has “had it” with the Tavern. Mr. Rose said “something had to be done” and that no other like bars or restaurants in the city have had problems like it does. Mr. Cunha, the representative from Ward 2 where the Tavern is located and who grew up on Lyon Avenue, said the February stabbing incident was “20 minutes” away from turning into a case of murder.
Nothing said by either Mr. Maaia or Mr. Tague Tuesday changed their opinion nor apparently that of Councilors Jim Briden and Tracy Capobianco, who voted with their colleagues to close East Bay Tavern for the foreseeable future at the very least.