LAWRENCE — A popular downtown nightclub has been put on six months probation after fire inspectors said its owner and manager aggressively confronted them on recent visits, once trying to block them from entering and another time throwing them out as they documented overcrowding, bolted exits and other fire code violations.
The city’s newly reconstituted Licensing Board voted 3-0 vote to put El Centro on probation after Fire Chief Jack Bergeron urged it to go further and revoke the club’s liquor license, which effectively would have shut the Common Street club.
Revoking El Centro’s liquor license would have extended the crackdown on troubled bars by the Licensing Board, which revoked liquor licenses for La Guira, Marabu Cafe and Fuego Latino over the last year in response to a wave of violence that swept through the city’s bars and clubs but has subsided.
The board has been entirely reshaped in recent months, following the death of former chairman Rick Fielding, the resignation of member Thomas Murphy and the elevation of Mayra Lantigua – Mayor William Lantigua’s former wife – to acting chairman.
Mayra Lantigua could not be reached yesterday to learn if last week’s Licensing Board vote represented a softening of the harder line against troubled bars and clubs that the earlier board eventually and reluctantly embraced.
Member Ronald Martin said the board voted to put El Centro on probation after he said Bergeron agreed to it as a compromise with the club’s owners, including at least one who attended the Licensing Board hearing last week. The club is owned by Paul Tarshi, according to the fire inspector's reports, and managed by John Tarshi.
The probation includes “the stipulation that if there are any other violations, there would automatically be a new hearing,” Martin said. “We wouldn’t look too kindly upon it.”