LAWRENCE — The city’s nightlife had a regional reputation for violence and lawlessness until a year or so ago, when strippers danced defiantly in downtown windows, shootings and stabbings were as common as a rum and coke and a stripped-down police force struggled to react.
Calm began returning when the city and state revoked or suspended as many as 10 liquor licenses, shutting down the most troubled of the city’s dozens of bars and nightclubs.
Another step toward order comes tonight, when representatives from the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission will brief the Licensing Board on state liquor laws in an effort that Mayor Daniel Rivera said is intended to ensure its members — all freshmen — follow the rules “to the letter of the law.”
Two of the board’s three members have served on the board for just 18 months. Its chairman, Pedro Torres, joined it last month.
Tonight’s meeting could better align two agencies that don’t always agree.
The ABCC has overturned Licensing Board decisions at least three times since 2008, most recently in August 2012, when the agency directed the board to issue a liquor license it had denied to Pedro Beatto, who sought to open a bar and restaurant called Don Pedro’s at 42 Amesbury St. The state reversed the city on procedural grounds because city attorneys skipped the hearing on Beatto’s appeal.
The Licensing Board gave Beatto his liquor license, as directed by the ABCC, but problems persisted because the board took longer than a year to provide the ABCC with the paperwork needed to ratify the approval.
The ABCC received the correct paperwork last week and is reviewing it before issuing Beatto the license he asked for in 2012, said Jon Carlisle, a spokesman for the agency.
“This kind of back-and-forth is one of the main reasons that we make ourselves available to cities and towns for these tutorials,” Carlisle said yesterday.
Besides Torres, the Lawrence Licensing Board includes Ronald Martin and Leocadio Paulino.