PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Providence Board of Licenses granted a liquor license to a controversial businessman who has had two Providence bars shut down over violent attacks.
Gianfranco Marrocco went before the board on Thursday to request a license until 2 a.m. for a new Latin restaurant and Hookah bar called “Blend” on DePasquale Square.
The decision to grant a license was controversial, considering the events at Marrocco’s previous establishments. Outside the $3 Bar in 2014, police say Jonathan Stack was beaten to death with a 2×4, after a fight that started inside. The bar was shut down after police said the bar’s staff failed to intervene or call 911.
Jon Stack’s mother Diane has filed a lawsuit over the alleged negligence.
“The same problems will come out,” Stack said in an interview with Eyewitness News Thursday about Marrocco’s new bar. “There’s no question about it.”
Another bar owned by Marrocco, Club Karma, was also shut down in 2014 after a shooting there.
Stack says she hopes Marrocco’s employees at Blend will be trained in protocols for when fights break out, including calling the police.
“I sit up nights, saying, ‘well maybe he could’ve been helped if they would’ve come sooner,” she said. Jon Stack owned a junk car business and was an animal lover, Ms. Stack said.
Concerned citizens also spoke out at Marrocco’s hearing, urging the board to consider the history of violence at his establishments. Sharon Steele, who describes herself as a public advocate, said the violence shows he is unfit to open another bar.
“We’re not talking about ancient history here,” Steele said. “We’re talking about very recent history.”
Marrocco’s attorney defended him, pointing out his positive record as the owner of Dolce Vita, also in DePasquale Square. The attorney told the board Marrocco lives above the restaurant with his family and is invested in the safety of the people who frequent the area.
Marrocco himself defended his record to Eyewitness News after he was granted the temporary license.
“Unfortunately, it’s a crazy world,” Marrocco said. “Something can happen as we’re speaking right now, someone can come by and shoot all of us. There are things in life just beyond our control.”
Marrocco says there will be no room for “nightclub” activity at Blend, which will have 42 seats in the restaurant and 12 bar seats. The Board of Licenses will review Marrocco’s case during Blend’s first 60 days in business.
Meanwhile, prosecutors are preparing for the November trial of Jon Stack’s alleged killer, Daniel Lastarza.
“I’ll never get over it,” Diane Stack said, showing us a spread of newspaper clippings she keeps related to her son’s death. “I’ll fight for his justice until the day I die.”
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