License Commission rolls back Wonderland Ballroom hours to 1:00 a.m. for 90 days

Jan. 10 hip-hop event aftermath taxed police services throughout city

By James David Mitchell - 

The Revere license commission and the managers of the Wonderland Ballroom were treated to a case of déjà vu at a continued show cause hearing on Wednesday afternoon at City Hall when the commission voted unanimously to recall the entertainment venue’s closing license back to 1:00 a.m.

The special meeting was held after the commissions regularly-scheduled monthly meeting last week, when the club sought a special One Day Entertainment License for an 18+ Feb. 14 concert by Latin group, Plan B.

But before the commission would even consider a special license, managers of the ballroom were called before the board to address concerns over a Jan. 11 hip-hop dance party that caused additional police officers to go to the ballroom to remove patrons from the venue and parking lot, as well as several incidents, which Revere Police Sgt. Mike Mason felt were a result of a few of the patrons’ actions following the event.

Commission Chairman Joseph Quarantello requested testimony from the officers who were present at the Jan. 11 incident outside the ballroom before hearing from the club manager, who was unable to be present at the previous week’s hearing.

“We could have made 2,000 arrests,” said Mason, recalling the early morning hours outside the Wonderland Ballroom as it emptied out on Jan. 11. “In my 20 years, I’ve never seen so many incidents go on at one time. Our officers showed great restraint. To say the crowd was less than cooperative is an understatement.”

Mason told the commission that despite the club’s security and the additional officers, the behavior of the patrons, combined with his observations of alleged drunkenness and the smell of marijuana, as well as the overall rudeness of the patrons, the scenario could have ended worse.

Patrolman Doug Zingali, who has been providing police details at the ballroom for over 10 years, told the commission that it was ten individuals who were denied entry into the event who caused much of the trouble that night.

“It was a group that was intoxicated that tried to get in,” said Zingali, describing the evening’s events. “They were inappropriately dressed, intoxicated and abusive.”

Commissioner Linda Guinasso, as she did in last week’s meeting, asked why the managers failed to adhere to the license’s closing restriction for all patrons to be off the premises by 2:00 a.m.

Zingali stated that in all the year’s working details at Wonderland Ballroom, the venue has always had patrons out by 1:30 a.m. because the club’s security is responsible for clearing out the patrons. “In the 17 years working details, [police] have never been called more than 10 times,” said the officer. He blamed the number of patrons waiting at the coat-check for the slow exit of party-goers that morning.

According to Zingali, the ballroom employed 14 security personnel and only one police detail officer, himself.

Wonderland Ballroom Manager Charles Delpidio apologized to the commission and the police department, saying he never has any intention of placing police or venue personnel at risk, blaming a bad promoter, then saying that the club can’t be held responsible for what happens when patrons leave an event. “This wasn’t really the crowd we wanted. That promoter will never, ever be back,” he said.

But the chairman wasn’t satisfied with the answer, reminding the manager that he was before the board last month over a 2013 Thanksgiving Eve Haitian concert that caused area police to quell unruly patrons following the event.

“How are you vetting out these promoters?” asked Quarantello, “You were up here a month ago – now here we are again talking about promoters.”

Delpidio said that the ballroom has hosted thousands of concerts – “thousands going through our doors every night,” said the manager. “It pains me to be here.”

But Guinasso wasn’t having it; she said police testimony showed that the club’s patrons created disturbances throughout the city, straining police services and leaving the city unprotected. She said, “We’re not talking about you. We’re talking about the city of Revere and the taxpayers.”

Delpidio said that the club can’t be held responsible for what happens two hours later away from the venue.

Sgt. Mason testified that police were called to several incidents throughout the city immediately following the ballroom event, including two motor vehicle accidents (although one was deemed a blown tire in the parking lot); and a group of inebriated individuals causing a disturbance at a local hotel.

Quarantello summed up the hearing, saying that he believes the club manager has the best intentions with respect to police and patrons’ safety, but he still felt uncomfortable that out of all the establishments, Wonderland Ballroom has all that manpower and can’t close until 2:00 a.m.

“I recommend … closing at 1:00 a.m. for 90 days until May 1 until you can run an establishment,” declared the chairman. The motion was seconded by Commissioner John LaCroix.

The manager asked about the contracts currently in place with customers, including their request for the special one-day license for the Latin concert band Plan B on February 14, which is expected to draw 800 to 1,000 fans.

“It’s unfortunate but this would be the same format,” said Quarantello, referring to the 1:00 a.m. closing. “As long as there are no incidents between now and [May 5], we have no problem going back to 2:00 a.m.,” said the chairman.

The special one-day license for the Feb. 14 concert was passed with the 1:00 a.m. closing.