EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 26, 2013

City cracks down on club

Owner faces illegal weapon charge, boyfriend sought for assault

By Shawn Regan
sregan@eagletribune.com

---- — HAVERHILL — A couple with a teenage son said drunk and rowdy people coming and going from The Hideout club on Emerson Street keep them awake into the early-morning hours by yelling, swearing and fighting near their home, and often in their driveway.

The family is about to get a respite.

The License Commission has stripped the private downtown club of its entertainment license and ordered that it must close no later than 9 p.m. until at least April 1.

The decision was made at a disciplinary hearing yesterday afternoon at City Hall. The hearing was the result of an incident early Friday morning in which a drunk and disorderly club member was allegedly beaten and shot with a stun gun outside the club by the owner’s boyfriend.

Police cited the owner and manager of the club, Tara Viola, with possession of an illegal electrical weapon inside the club and not following rules for how private clubs are required to maintain a guest book for non-members.

Police Captain Alan Ratte said police have also filed criminal charges against Viola for possession of a stun gun, which are illegal in Massachusetts.

Police have also obtained an arrest warrant for Viola’s boyfriend, Elias Iliopoulos, 36, for allegedly assaulting a woman who was trying to get into the club after closing time.

Police said Iliopoulos’ last know address is 45 Jefferson St., Lawrence — the same address Viola used on her alcohol license for the club.

According to police reports, officers were called to the club by Viola around 2 a.m. Friday. When they arrived, officers said two “heavily intoxicated” women came running up to their cruiser yelling wildly about being attacked by “people from The Hideout.”

Police said the female victim told them that she was thrown to the ground by a heavy-set man and shot with a stun gun several times. She had a bruise on her head and a cut on her nose, a police report said. She told police her attacker jumped into a motor vehicle and sped off. The other woman was taken into protective custody after she repeatedly yelled and slurred her speech, the police report said.

Inside the club, Viola told police that she and a male employee were closing up for the night when the two women arrived and started kicking the locked front door to try to get in. Viola told police the women were club members who were there earlier and had been asked to leave around midnight, the police report said.

Police said Viola acknowledged having a verbal confrontation with the women, but told the officers she only yelled at them to leave.

According to the police report, officers then asked Viola if she owned a stun gun. She responded that she had one and gave it to the officers, the report said. Police said Viola’s stun gun is pink, the same color as the stun gun that witnesses told police was used on the female victim.

At yesterday’s hearing, Viola denied that her stun gun was used on the female victim. She said she held it in her hand when she went outside to tell the women to leave, but that she never used it. Viola told the commission she suspected the device was illegal, but didn’t know for sure.

“I keep it for protection because I often leave the club alone late at night,” Viola said. “I would never have a man go outside and assault a woman for me. As a woman, that’s offensive. And why would I call police if I had just assaulted someone. I had it in my hand for protection in case I was attacked.”

A man and woman who live next door to the club told the commission they have called local and state police many times to report loud noise and people from the club trespassing onto their property long after the club’s closing time. The business is supposed to close at 12.30 a.m. Monday through Friday and 1 a.m. Saturday, officials said.

“We are private, quite people, but because we live in a bad area next door to this place, there are drunks running in our driveway, screaming and yelling and fighting and breaking bottles at 2 and 3 in the morning,” said Jackie Van Slyke. “My 13-year-old is a good student, but he can’t get a good night sleep. We are good citizens and shouldn’t have to put up with this.”

Commission member Timothy Coco said he made a surprise visit to the club Friday night with a police officer. Coco said they found that Viola was not keeping the club’s log book properly. City rules require that private clubs keep a guest book in plain sight and that everyone in the club is either a member or signed in by a member.

Coco said one member had signed in six guests, but that the member who signed them in was no where to be found. Coco said Viola told him the member left two hours before he arrived, but the guests were still there. Commission members then reminded Viola that she was warned by the commission last summer about following rules for the guest book, after she was caught not operating the book correctly by police shortly after the business opened.

“You either don’t get it or you don’t care,” Commission member Gerald Sewell told Viola. “Some people can’t handle being shot with a stun gun. You could kill or blind someone. Keeping it in your club in a serious violation.”

Viola said yesterday’s hearing was the first time she heard about the complaints from her next-door neighbors. She also said she fired the bartender who was in charge of the guest book the day after Coco’s visit.

“It’s good thing you have excuse for everything,” Commission chairman Joseph Edwards told Viola before recommending punishment for the club. “You think you have a license to operate however you want.”

Viola opened the club this past summer at the site of the former Sportsmen’s Club. She said the idea behind it is to give “a sense of family” for members who don’t frequent other bars in the city. She said she planned to host a Thanksgiving dinner for members this week, for instance.

Edwards told Viola that she can reapply in April for her entertainment license, which allows music, dancing by patrons, bands and live performers, jukebox, radio, television, amplifiers and karaoke. Viola still has her liquor license, but must close the club no later than 9 p.m. until April 1.