METHUEN — The Licensing Board last night restored the Sahara Club’s license to serve alcohol while restricting its hours and requiring paid police and fire personnel to be present for large crowds.
The board suspended the club’s license on Nov. 13 when numerous violations of its operating agreement came to light. City licensing and public safety officials took a closer look at the club following a fatal shooting Oct. 23 on Greendale Street.
Board members John MacLeod and James Piemonte voted to restore the license and restricted the clubs hours of operation to 8 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Saturdays and noon to midnight Sundays. It can stay open until 1 a.m. tonight and on New Years Eve.
The club also must have a police officer present when occupancy, which includes both patrons and employees, surpasses 100 people.
Fire Capt. Michael Buote, speaking for fire Chief Steven Buote, said the club must hire a certified crowd manager from the fire department when occupancy is greater than 100 in accordance with state law. The club can train its own crowd manager, but a fire detail must be present until Chief Buote is comfortable with that person, Capt. Buote said.
The club, which is situated in the middle of a residential area on Oak Street, also must adhere to all its prior agreements with the city, including hiring a valet to manage parking as per a 1995 agreement.
MacLeod also stressed that the Sahara, which is a private members-only club, must keep a legible nightly log of the guests in the club and the members who brought them.
The Sahara can reopen today for a planned event.
“We’re glad we reached an agreement that’ll allow us to reopen and that addresses public safety and residents’ concerns,” said Sahara attorney William Amann.
David DiZazzo, a resident of the neighborhood surrounding the Sahara, said he was disappointed with the agreement.
“It didn’t accomplish anything,” he said. “They’re only open two nights anyway, Tuesday and Saturday.”
Piemonte said the police and fire department crowd manager would address late night noise and parking complaints raised by residents last night and on Nov. 13.
Club owners will return to the board in 60 days to review compliance.
DiZazzo and several other residents want the club closed down, he said last night.
Solomon and Capt. Buote told the Lebbos family, which owns the Sahara and attended the meeting last night, that if occupancy gets close to 100 on nights when police and fire details are not scheduled, they should not allow any more people into the club because the police and fire departments would not be able to get someone there for a detail on short notice. But officials will monitor the club and patrol the area.
“We will be visiting and if we’re there and you’re over 100, you’ll suffer the consequences,” Buote warned.
Police Chief Joseph Solomon asked the board to require that the club hire a police officer from the city when the club is rented out, either to a member or non-member; every Friday and Saturday night the club is open; whenever the club sells tickets to an event; and whenever the club has an event that is expected to draw 150 or more people.
Additionally, Solomon suggested the club must apply for a city amusement license anytime the club is rented out or it runs an event where tickets are sold.
The board did not include those suggestions in the list of requirements.
Officials also suggested the club close at midnight every night, but the board agreed to 1 a.m. on Saturdays, tonight and New Years Eve, reasoning that a police and fire detail will be there those nights.
Chief Buote, in a Nov. 22 letter to Zanni, noted the club repeatedly failed to hire a certified crowd manager in violation of state regulations despite multiple warnings from the city, and “regularly exceeds the Approved Maximum Occupancy of 240....”
A Lawrence man, David Rivera, was fatally shot outside the Sahara early in the morning on Oct. 23, after a party thrown by a member who rented out the club.
The Sahara provided its guest logs prior to Oct. 22 to the board, but MacLeod said they were illegible. No one kept a guest log on Oct. 22 because the club was rented to a member.
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