“I don’t want to see Chelo’s go out of business,” Leslie Walaska Baxter, chairwoman of the Board of Public Safety, said at Tuesday’s meeting. “That would be terrible. I know there are a lot of people they employ.”
After hearing testimony at several meetings from Chelo’s co-owner Glenn Chelo, as well as frustrated Cowesett residents who aren’t happy with noise, parking and littering issues they feel the venue causes, the board ruled Tuesday that the waterfront restaurant on Masthead Drive may have live outdoor music from 6 to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 2 to 6 p.m. and on Sunday with a review in two weeks. Former hours allowed bands to perform until 11 p.m.
At a previous meeting Jan. 24, the board advised Chelo’s to restrict live entertainment until 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, so the extra hour pleases Chelo. The restaurant employs 100 people and has been open for 17 years.
“It’s a move in the right direction,” Glenn Chelo said during an interview following the meeting, which attracted nearly 150 people. In fact, some people were denied access to the meeting room, as it was at capacity. “The board is under a lot of pressure and is trying to be fair to both sides,” Chelo said.
As a result, Chelo, who said he would be forced to close the restaurant if they are not allowed to showcase bands, plans on finding solutions to the problems, such as offering more valet parking, lowering the sound and repositioning the stage.
But, many residents aren’t thrilled. They said the venue solicits large, unruly crowds that disrespect their neighborhood not only by parking in front of their homes, but also by urinating, vomiting, leaving trash such as beer bottles and cans, as well as fornicating, on their property.
“It’s changed my way of life and is detrimental to the city,” said Saberah Malik, who has lived in Cowesett for 30 years. “We have an 8-year-old that lives on our street and she said ‘When the music starts, the birds fly away.’”
Roxie-Michelle Landers feels the same.
“Cowesett is a treasure chest in the city of Warwick and we are heavily and highly taxed,” she said. “We’re supposed to be protected by the city and the board has an obligation to keep us safe and secure.”
Steve Kohlman, owner of Majestic Cleaners, which is located near Chelo’s, said that while he’s not for or against Chelo’s, he hopes the situation improves. He said his employees are sometimes frightened to report to work, as drunk people sleep in their cars and park in his lot.
Further, he said he and his employees don’t appreciate having to clean vomit and urine from their lot. While Chelo said he is worried about shutting down and laying off employees if they have to do away with live entertainment, Kohlman is concerned his employees might quit their jobs at Majestic.
“Our girls have said they want to leave because they have to clean up puke,” he said. “I’ve gone down to Chelo’s five times and asked for the owner. Five times we explained to the managers that we wanted the owner to call us. We haven’t gotten a phone call from Mr. Chelo yet.”
Resident Robert Vaughn said hearing loud music isn’t the only noise issue. Motorcycles are also part of the problem, he said.
“They sound like space shuttles,” said Vaughn. “They are so loud at midnight and one in the morning.”
Brian Goldblatt of Goldblatt Law Office in Providence attended the meeting to represent the Cowesett neighborhood. He, too, was dissatisfied with the meeting’s result and feels Chelo’s already had the chance to prove they can make changes for the better.
“We are not trying to put them out of business – we are concerned for our safety,” he told the board. “The key issue is that it upsets the tranquility of the neighborhood. They had their opportunity. Enough is enough.”
Florence Voccola agreed.
“We’re back at square one,” she said after the meeting.
During the meeting, Chelo said they are working on the issues. He said they are no longer booking two bands that drew the largest and loudest crowds; recently spent $15,000 on a sound system to control noise levels; as well as $45,000 to soundproof the stage.
“It’s a beautiful stage,” said James Geyer from the audience. Geyer is a drummer and plays for the rock band Take 3. In an interview yesterday morning, he said he’s happy with the board’s decision.
“It shows that they care,” he said. “Summer is a great time to play and Chelo’s attracts children to seniors.”
His band mate, bassist Mike Matthis, also attended the meeting. He shared Geyer’s sentiments.
“My kids come to the establishment and see me play,” Matthis said. “Their friends come see us with their parents when they can’t get a babysitter. It’s a fun, family place and I use the money [I earn from gigs I play there] to help feed my family.”
Malik said that’s not an appropriate reason to keep Chelo’s open as a music venue.
“The bands can play elsewhere,” she said.
Councilman Steve Merolla, who recently attempted to establish an ordinance that he felt would solve the issues, was at the meeting.
“I hope we can take Chelo’s on their word and this problem won’t happen this summer,” Merolla said yesterday in an interview. “It’s destroying the characteristics of the neighborhood. You don’t want to shut down a business but it disturbs the community.”