EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 15, 2013

Zanni to review club rules

By Douglas Moser

---- — METHUEN — Mayor Stephen Zanni plans to review local rules governing how private clubs operate in the city in the wake of the Sahara Club losing its license indefinitely for multiple violations of its operating restrictions.

Zanni said he wanted to review the potential for a local ordinance to standardize the rules and restrictions on private clubs, which now follow state guidelines and ad hoc restrictions imposed on clubs on a case-by-case basis.

“I want the Licensing Board, the fire chief or his designee, the police chief and myself, once the investigation is done, to meet with residents and we’ll talk about not only the Sahara Club but all private clubs in the city,” Zanni said.

Police are still investigating the Oct. 23 shooting that claimed the life of a Lawrence man outside the club. No one has been arrested for that shooting.

Police Chief Joseph Solomon said officers have spoken with two grand juries in the case and are still following leads.

David Rivera, 28, 246 Farnham St., Lawrence, was shot multiple times on Greendale Street near the Sahara at about 1 a.m. Oct. 23, and died shortly after.

State law gives licensing authority to cities and towns, and leaves each local licensing board to create its own restrictions as they deem necessary, including hours operation and days permitted for the sale of alcohol.

The state does restrict clubs to selling alcohol only to its members or “to guests introduced by members, and no others,” according to the law.

Residents complained at a Licensing Board meeting on Wednesday that the Sahara Club may have been selling alcohol and allowing entry to guests who were not accompanied by members, Solomon said.

A Sahara Club member leased the club space late in the evening Oct. 22 and into Oct. 23, according to the Licensing Board. A guest list was not kept that night, one of the violations that led the Licensing Board to suspend the Sahara’s license Wednesday.

The Sahara Club, which is located in a residential neighborhood off main streets, is bound to a list of restrictions unique to its license as part of a 1995 agreement. That agreement includes restrictions on street parking around the club and a requirement that the club provide valet parking only and a staff that includes a parking director and at least two valets.

While the club has a capacity of 240, it is required to have a police or firefighter representative if more than 150 people are on site, according to a 2001 memo included in the Sahara’s license file.

It had an alcohol license, a common victualler license, required of establishments capable of cooking and serving food, and an entertainment license, required for establishments with televisions, music and dancing.

Solomon said the night the Sahara was rented out it also was required to have a private amusement license, though it did not have one. “They said were unaware they needed one,” Solomon said.

Zanni said any new local rules would go before the city council for approval.

Solomon said he, the fire chief and the Licensing Committee typically are involved in discussions involving licensing rules and restrictions.

William Amann, an attorney for the Sahara Club, has said the club is willing to work with the city and the residents who live around the club.

The Licensing Board suspended the club’s license until the violations it found are addressed. Amann said the club hopes to be open again by Thanksgiving.

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