BY Wesli Dymoke
According to an article in Saturday’s ProJo, the City’s Board of Licenses has “indefinitely suspended” the entertainment license for Club Energy (69-71 Union St.), for repeated and excessive noise violations. The article details numerous noise issues and incidents, including one tenant who claims he had to “flee” his flat in hopeless desperation, how the developer who redid the building didn’t expect sound mitigation to be necessary, how Energy’s owner, Thomas Menna, has tried and promised to do something about it, and why the Board is skeptical. Yet even with all that information, there still seems to be more to this story than meets the eye.
The tenant forced to flee the “horror” of the sound, Paul Caprio, is represented in his complaint by State Rep. David A. Caprio (District 34 – Narragansett, South Kingstown). David’s brother is State Treasurer Frank Caprio, currently considered a frontrunner in next year’s gubernatorial election. Frank has expressed his support for gay rights, though by “gay” he may mean more the fluffy, quiet, gently coifed and well-appointed kind of gays who run fashionable salons and galleries, and less the buff, sweaty meatslabs who adorn the right-wing’s OMG-the-childrunz terror tabloids. Energy’s predecessor, cleverly named “69 Union,” was known for the latter; Energy is apparently mostly just really, really loud, so far. But you never know when those hot, tight, practically naked boys will show up. In fact..
ProJo reports that the law firm of Caprio (yes, the same Frank), Ardente, and Kusinitz, representing Energy’s landlord Strand Realty, presented information to the Board about an act Menna is planning to show, 2xcess Malezone, saying they appear to be male strippers. For their own part, they insist they’re perfectly decent, go-to-church-type “go-go” dancers. Like Chippendales guys, only, you know, Rhode Island style (they’re based at a place on Allens, if that’s any clue) — sleazy, sure, but it’s not like they’re going the full monty. Which is good, because, as ProJo reminds us, that requires an adult license. (And of course, performers must be at least 16.)
The cynical might see this as a pre-season play for sideways campaign contributions and a little extra palmgrease for the City’s watchdogs. Which is just good old fashioned Rhode Island business sense, and nothing to get het up over. After pumping the building chases full of (“fireproof”!) sound-damping foam, Menna might do well to pack some extra cash into some remaining tight spaces to quiet those noise complaints.
The more paranoid might see this as a back-door assault on one of the larger, more overt gay clubs downtown, directly underneath newly redone condos. (Replacing the much sketchier but much more discreet 69 Union, which occupied a mostly abandoned building in a mostly abandoned downtown and offended no one.) It’s difficult to understand, at least, how stripping (or “go-go,” wink wink) is a more ominous noise threat than other entertainment. But the Caprios have a strong pro-gay record: David is a sponsor of marriage equality, and while Frank has been less enthusiastic, he has pledged not to oppose it. (As of this writing, we profess no knowledge about Paul, but welcome all baseless rumours.)
My own suspicion is that it’s part of a sometimes unsettling trend that’s been going on since our Renaissance started several years ago: the negative fallout from downtown gentrification.
This isn’t new: When I first moved here, my neighbours asked me not to park in front of their house because they thought my car was ugly. (I reminded them that this is not Smithfield, they don’t own the road, and I’ll park wherever I damn well please; and I found it very convenient to park there, which I continued to do as they sat on antique settees behind their drawn taffeta curtains and cried softly into their Eddie Bauer hankies.) I had not a shred of sympathy for what I saw as their misplaced values. (And I’d just like to say that while my car was hideous for other reasons — a Festiva can hardly help it, honestly — it was not ugly.)
They also complained about the constant noise, and I asked them how they thought living in a city would be any different. Had they never seen a city, or even a depiction of one? They clearly had plenty of money, and could have lived anywhere. But they thought it would be hip and fun to live in lower East Side. And it is, if you have the right mindset going in. If you think it’s going to be like the TV show Providence, you’ll be in for a shock, and not just that Brown students get drunk, loud, and shitty just like J-Dubs or any other college kids.
There also remains the possibility that all this is exactly as it appears on its face: Energy is ridiculously loud, and the landlord is trying anything they can to get the problem taken care of. This being Rhode Island, however, it’s hard to take things on their face: sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but usually it’s a big brown dick. The reality is that unless Strand and the Caprios go out of their way to clarify that this dispute has nothing to do with gays, many will want to see it that way. And showing off pictures of hot studs to the licensing Board doesn’t do much to disabuse that suspicion.