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Brawl, Murder, Machete, Basebats Result in Club Balloons Losing Its licenses

Other than that, the food’s good.

PROVIDENCE – from – — City license regulators Wednesday brought down the curtain — permanently — on Club Balloons strip club.

On a unanimous vote, the Board of Licenses stripped proprietor Dennis D’Ambra of his four licenses, including his license to stage nude entertainment. The license board said club management and security personnel were irresponsible on July 11 when a brawl and a murder occurred at the licensed premises, 257 Allens Ave., Unit 2, in South Providence.

The people in charge of the club that night never called the police to report the brawl between two groups of combatants or the murder, according to sworn testimony by the police at a license board hearing. The police also found fault with those in charge having armed themselves with a machete and wooden bats — although there was no evidence that they were used.

After the initial brawl was quelled inside, the manager and bouncers put one of the warring groups out of the club knowing that the other group probably was waiting outside, according to police testimony and a video recording from the landlord’s security cameras shown at the hearing.

The board said in a written decision that management and security personnel “were unable to control [club] patrons” and failed to notify the police of the violence, and as a result, the altercation inside resumed outside and a patron was shot to death in the rear parking lot.

“…This licensee created an unreasonable risk of harm not only to its patrons but to the safety of the public at large,” the board declared. By breaking out a machete and bats, the management and security demonstrated “a willful and wanton disregard for public safety,” the board added.

Balloons had been closed by the board on an interim basis since the incident, pending a board hearing and decision on the licenses.

D’Ambra, who has the right to appeal the decision to Superior Court, refused comment.

Balloons has not had a license to serve alcohol. It lost licenses to present adult entertainment, which means in the nude; to dispense food; and to do business on holidays and from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. daily.

Police Maj. Thomas F. Oates III said the police are “extremely happy” with the outcome and he hopes that the club stays closed because it is not a benefit to Providence’s nightlife.

The victim of the shooting, which the police say is an unsolved murder, was Paulo Jorge “Benjo” Barbosa, 29, of Pawtucket, a Cape Verdean citizen who grew up in the Woodlawn section of Pawtucket and was a noted amateur boxer. He was the 1998 Junior Olympics world heavyweight champion and was awarded a municipal proclamation by Pawtucket Mayor James Doyle. He learned to box at the Barton Street Community Center in a program overseen by the Pawtucket police.

Barbosa, who most recently worked as a landscaper, was the father of a 5-year-old boy. At an antiviolence candlelight vigil 2½ weeks ago in Pawtucket, family and friends lauded Barbosa as a caring and protective person who was always smiling and joking.

Club Balloons shares a low-slung brick building that is divided into three separately licensed sections. Balloons is Unit 2, and the other two sections, Units 1 and 3, are occupied by X-treme, which Balloons landlord and nightclub entrepreneur H. Charles Tapalian described as a gay strip club, and The Mega-Plex, the business purpose of which is unclear.

Balloons and X-treme have had adult entertainment licenses, and The Mega-Plex has licenses to dispense food and do business on holidays and from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. but not to present adult entertainment, according to license board records.

Tapalian has said that as the owner of the real estate, he has a contract with D’Ambra that entitles him to a share of Club Balloons’ earnings. And D’Ambra, according to Tapalian, has a minority ownership interest in the real estate.


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