After hearing testimony from neighbors of Club Bebeto — including a 12-year-old girl who lives nearby — the Johnston Town Council voted 5-0 on Monday night to revoke all of its licenses, effectively shutting down the Greenville Avenue bar.
Providence Police Det. Sgt. Michael Wheeler told the council that known gang members from the city had been involved in several of the recently-reported incidents at the club, including an assault reported on Mar. 18 and the Mar. 25 case of .
"I am familiar with some folks who not only work, but who hang at this establishment," Wheeler told the council. He also testified that the 20-year-old, Ruben Montufar, is a "very well-known member of TRG," or "Tiny Rascal Gang," in Providence.
TRG is a rival gang to Sur 13, and Wheeler said he felt Club Bebeto was becoming disputed turf between the groups.
"I'm also aware that some of the employees at this location have contact, whether they're gang members or their close associates," Wheeler explained. "The problems will persist. These groups are involved in some very violent crimes within the city of Providence, and as long as there's one group that's allowed to hang out there and loiter there, call it their place, then you will have problems with their rivals — and nothing good will come of that."
To Council President Robert Russo's question of whether he considered Club Bebeto "an establishment for one of these gangs," Wheeler replied: "I would say that some of the [TRG] gang members believe this to be an establishment where they can frequent and hang out, yes."
Johnston Police Chief Richard Tamburini also told the council that he's concerned about the potential for violence — and the continued need to send officers to the club.
"It's a drain on my manpower to have officers monitoring this place on weekends to make sure that the violence doesn't escalate to the point where people are going to get hurt," Tamburini said. "I can describe it as an actual powder keg that's just ready to happen down there."
Co-owner Maria Vargas told the council that she had offered to pay for a police detail, and that she didn't know of the gang affiliations of the customers in her club.
"I didn't know exactly who was coming to my place," Vargas said, adding that she and her husband had talked with the local police department about providing an additional detail over the weekends. "I don't know who they are — if they were gang members, I didn't know, but I don't want that kind of people in my place."
Councilman Ernest Pitochelli (I-Dist. 2) and Russo challenged Vargas on how she could not know who was visiting her business.
"I used to run a place, and we knew everybody that was in there, and you knew when the bad element was coming in there — maybe you don't, but we did," Pitochelli said.
"We've got 21 pages of police reports here," Russo added, "so to say you don't know there's a bad element there — I think you have to know."
Neighbors speak about noise:
Alexia Cabral, 12, told the council that the loud noice from the club had been keeping her awake on Saturday and Sunday nights.
"I hear the music so loud that I can hear it with the doors closed," Cabral said. "On Monday, I have school, so Sunday night when I hear the loud music, I can't sleep."
Cabral's mother, Stacey, told Vargas that she's seen "way more than 50 cars there" on certain nights recently.
"There's no way there were only 50 people there," Stacey Cabral explained, adding that she was also concerned about the loud music. "I can't even go in my yard on Thursday, Friday and Saturday — I have to blast my music to cover yours, and that's not right."
Ron Beaumier, of 29 Greenville Ave., said he's been calling the police department frequently over the noise problem.
"The music is unbearable — I had [police] at my house last night," Beaumier explained. "Friday, Saturday and especially Sunday night, they're singing and you'd think they were in my backyard."
After suggesting at first that the council should consider a 60-day suspension for the club — and hearing the neighbors testify about the noise issue — Tamburini asked to take back his original proposal and instead requested that the council revoke all of the business licenses held by the club.
Councilors immediately approved the license revocation and adjourned their meeting at 9:05 pm.