Porn News

Barrels Restaurant Hosted Porn Stars

LeeAnna Heart and Ruby [pictured] were two of the main porn stars involved in this story

NORTH PROVIDENCE — Mayor A. Ralph Mollis appeared before the Town Council last month and laid out a detailed case against a Fruit Hill business that recently advertised as a “Strip Joint.”

Mollis alleged that Barrels Restaurant has violated town laws by hosting porn stars, offering massage services to clients and projecting silhouettes of naked women on a viewing screen.

Citing information gathered by police investigators, Mollis asserted that Barrels also violated an order from the state Department of Business Regulation by failing to serve food from its kitchen.

After listening to what sounded like a prosecutor’s indictment, the council voted to summon the business’s owner, Jack O’Rourke, to a Nov. 22 hearing and ask him to respond to the mayor’s allegations.

The council’s vote sets the stage for yet another showdown with O’Rourke, who was not present at the meeting but guffawed at some of Mollis’s allegations during an interview afterward.

The restaurateur welcomed the public hearing. He said his hosting of porno stars at a series of meet-the-celebrity events was nothing more than a publicity stunt intended to put the spotlight on his licensing struggles with town officials. Town officials refuse to resolve parking problems that have crippled Barrels’ ability to operate as a restaurant from 4 p.m. to 8, according to O’Rourke.

“I had to do something,” he said. “If I had put clowns in there, or sword swallowers, they would say, ‘Jack’s got sword swallowers. Big Deal.'”

One possibility, though, is that town officials might try to strip O’Rourke of his liquor license.

Mollis recommended that the council simply review the liquor license.

However, after the meeting, he argued that the council should consider the option of removing the liquor license.

“I think he had his last opportunity,” he said, arguing that O’Rourke has defied business regulators by violating a set of rules that allowed Barrels to operate as a family restaurant or sports bar in the Village at Fruit Hill at 1525 Smith St.

North Providence officials regarded those rules as a last-ditch attempt to rein in O’Rourke, who has pursued nightclub-type activities over the years.

“He violated those restrictions,” Mollis said. “My feeling is it’s obvious that we have to give serious consideration to removing his liquor license.”

Mollis pillared his report to councilmen with information gathered by undercover detectives.

The police began investigating Barrels earlier in the fall, after a disturbance outside the business on Sept. 25.

The timing of the investigation jibed with O’Rourke’s decision to host porn stars and to refer to his business as a “Hot, Hot Strip Joint” in advertisements printed in the Providence Phoenix and aired on area radio stations.

Detectives went to the business on two occasions and recorded both audio and video tape for evidence.

In one audio tape, an employee of Barrels says she is a licensed masseuse and she gives massages at the restaurant, according to Mollis.

In a written memo to the council, Mollis argues that zoning laws ban massage parlors in Barrels’ zoning district, a “commercial village” area where business is allowed, but under special rules.

Mollis also argued that the town’s adult entertainment ordinance prohibits any type of business involving any physical contact between customers and a person of the opposite sex.

He argued that state regulators and town officials never agreed to massages when they allowed O’Rourke to operate Barrels.

O’Rourke, once again, referred to the physical contact as “shoulder rubs” not massages.

He laughed at Mollis’s suggestion that the hosting of porn stars is a form of entertainment for which Barrels needs a special entertainment license.

He also questioned Mollis’s contention that Barrels must keep its own kitchen open and serve foods to comply with business regulations.

O’Rourke has acknowledged serving takeout food from other businesses in recent months. But he argues that regulators and town officials are the ones who have limited his menu to pizza and calzones.

Mollis calls Barrels’ low-level lighting a nightclub hallmark, while O’Rourke says he’s just trying to set the same mood as dimly lit establishments on Federal Hill.

“The darker the place,” he said, “the higher the tab is.”

Part 2: NORTH PROVIDENCE — Councilmen took away the liquor license held by Barrels Restaurant November 22 after police detectives described their encounters with porn stars and masseuses at the establishment last month.

The 5-to-1 vote followed more than an hour of testimony and nearly another hour of lively debate between councilmen and Barrels’ owner, Jack O’Rourke. Councilman Raymond Douglas, who supports a 30-day revocation, was the lone no vote.

Town officials, including solicitor Mark Welch, argue that O’Rourke failed to operate his business under rules set forth in an agreement he reached with the town earlier this year.

That pact was administered by the state Department of Business Regulation and arranged after the state liquor control administrator, Jeffrey J. Greer, overturned the town’s first revocation of O’Rourke’s liquor license last year.

This time, officials say Barrels strayed from Greer’s stringent rules, and violated town zoning laws, by: hosting porn stars for entertainment purposes; using nightclub low-level lighting; selling liquor without cooking food in-house; offering massage services to customers.

O’Rourke argues that parking problems and years of excessive regulation forced him to take what he basically described as desperate measures.

“I’m choking to death up there,” he said. “Choking to death. I’m dead in the water.”

The evening began with two detectives describing what they saw and experienced at Barrels during two visits last month. This was after the restaurant advertised itself as a “Hot! Hot! Strip Joint!”

Clothed porn stars posed for pictures with customers for a fee, the detectives said.

Meanwhile, waitresses offered $10 backrubs. Employees reported that the kitchen was closed, said one of the detectives.

Last night, officials, including Councilman Paul Caranci, suggested that the town was willing to allow a restaurant in the Village at Fruit Hill, but O’Rourke insisted on trying to run a nightclub and often resorted to risque practices.

Officials blame O’Rourke’s parking problems on his arrangement with his landlord.

O’Rourke suggests that town officials harmed his business by giving Golds Gym special permission to set up shop in the same plaza.

The gym’s customers, he argues, take up all the parking spots.

“I have to do something totally against me, totally against my make up,” he said, “and I bring in porn stars.”

Caranci said O’Rourke’s business woes give him no excuse to violate zoning rules.

“When I don’t pay my mortgage,” he said, “I don’t decide to put a couple of slot machines in my living room and allow people to come in to pay slots. That would certainly pay the mortgage. But you can’t do that.”

Part 3: NORTH PROVIDENCE — The last time town officials took away Jack O’Rourke’s liquor license, he went to court and basically forced them to give it back.

But the owner of Barrels Restaurant said November 29 that he won’t try that again.

After dueling with town officials for years, the run appears to be over.

“I’m tapped out,” O’Rourke said.

Town councilmen revoked the restaurateur’s liquor license last week.

Officials argued that they had proven that O’Rourke had once again violated rules that bar the operation of any nightclub-type establishment in the Village at Fruit Hill plaza on Smith Street.

O’Rourke argues that a severe shortage of parking places in the plaza during the late afternoon and early evening has made it impossible to run a restaurant there.

In recent years, he has used everything from piano players to women dancing in cages to lure customers at odd hours.

This fall, he hired porn stars to talk with customers and sign autographs. He also advertised Barrels as a “Hot, Hot Strip Joint” in the Providence Phoenix.

With information gathered by police detectives, town officials, including Mayor A. Ralph Mollis, argued that O’Rourke had violated zoning rules.

They cited Barrels for supplying customers with backrubs, using low-level lighting, providing entertainment without a liquor license and other violations.

The council revoked O’Rourke’s license on Monday night, voting 5 to 1.

Now, O’Rourke is trying to sell both the assets of his business and the confiscated liquor license.

Yesterday, he showed up at Town Hall, asking questions about how he can sell the license.

He asked Town Clerk MaryAnne DeAngelus whether he had a yearlong period in which he could make the sale.

“I don’t know,” said DeAngelus, who referred O’Rourke to the town’s solicitor, Mark Welch.

The license is among the 32 liquor licenses that officials are willing to dole out in North Providence.

Mayor A. Ralph Mollis said he believes O’Rourke has lost his right to sell the license, but he cautioned that he needs to confirm this belief with Welch.

O’Rourke said that he believes it’s pointless to appeal the council’s ruling in court or before the state Department of Business Regulation.

Even if he prevailed, town officials would find a way to interfere with the business, he said.

“No matter what I do,” he said, “they’re going to find a way to find something wrong with it.”

Mollis lamented the turn of events. He called it a “lose, lose” with a businessman leaving town unhappily and a vacant business space in the plaza.

“Our goal was never to have Jack O’Rourke leave town and leave behind a vacant restaurant,” Mollis said.

“Our intent … was for him to open the business he promised to run five years ago: a family restaurant,” he said.

“If he’s sitting there thinking we’ve won,” said Mollis, “he’s sadly mistaken.”

 

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