Lawrence: Where Nightclubs Meet Politics

In my story on Lawrence in this month’s magazine, I focus on how corruption and bad governance, particularly by Mayor William Lantigua, have hurt the city. But lately, the relationships that State Rep. Marcos Devers — who represents Lawrence and is a Lantigua political ally — maintains with several nightclubs in the city have also attracted scrutiny.

According to city and planning documents I’ve gathered, it appears that multiple clubs that have been the scene of violence, or that have had their licenses to operate suspended for safety violations, have applied for increases in their maximum occupancy. And they’ve used plans developed by a company called MJD Engineering, which is owned by Devers. Those clubs include Fuego Latino, El Jarro Café, Bali’s restaurant, and Malaya’s.

I have obtained the plans for expanded capacity for El Jarro, which were stamped by Devers on October 18, 2011. A week after Devers filed those plans with the city, the Mass. Alcohol Beverage Commission suspended the club’s license to operate for 13 days because of multiple infractions. Then on January 3, 2012, El Jarro was cited again, this time by Lawrence fire chief Jack Bergeron for allowing 154 patrons into an establishment deemed safe for only 54.

In another example, Devers filed an expanded occupancy request for Fuego Latino on September 13, 2011. On December 13, 2011, the Mass. Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission cited club owner Pedro Velez for multiple infractions, including fire and building safety code violations, and overcrowding.

Malaya’s nightclub also filed plans for expanded capacity, these ones drawn up by a group called BC Construction and Design and bearing Devers’ professional engineer’s stamp. The club was the site of four incidents of violence in a six month period in 2011, including several brawls, stabbings, and what police described as a “near riot.” Devers also developed plans for expanded capacity at Bali’s restaurant, which Mayor Lantigua frequents so often he has a designated parking space kept for him by a neighboring dry cleaner.

While Devers has no official influence on the licensing process, it’s curious that he chooses to work with nightclubs that have racked up a series of violations in the city he represents.

“I am a registered professional engineer,” Devers told me when I called him for comment. “I do my job in an objective way. Mathematics is the true factor here.” He added, “Another factor to take into account is that I don’t have the authority to approve these plans.” (The ultimate authority in the city for approving the building plan lies with building commissioner Peter Blanchette, whose brother is Patrick Blanchette, Lantigua’s chief of staff.)

Devers insisted that there’s no problem with nightclub owners making political donations to his war chest and those of other elected officials. “There’s no conflict of interest of any kind,” he said.

  • jenny lee

    you are nothing more than a wannabee.

    99.44% of your “news” article was 1/2 truths, and innuendoes, much of it already in the public domain.

    Since your “career” as a sports journalist
    never materialzed, it’s sad you have nothing better to do than viillify Lawrence.

    how much more of your hate mongering do we have to endure?

    • Maria Gonzalez

      Dispute the facts Jenny. Lawrence has a lot of problems, most coming from the night clubs. Marcos Devers is working with the clubs to increase their capacity. Increased capacity will lead to increased problems. Is it really the job of a State Rep. to help increase the problems of an already problematic city.

      Refute the facts please Jenny!

  • Michelle Melancon

    Get em Jay. Holy sh*t.

  • matt berry

    Hey Jenny, how is that city job in Lawrence treating you? There has been a lot of pushback on these articles by very articulate, well spoken folks. Having worked in the city of Lawrence with the general public, I am certain most of your “Average” Lawrencians probably agree that the place is a hole. The biggest detractors (including the comment from the 17 year opd who goes to St John’s Prep, but “knows a few kids” who go to public school) all focus on the lack of Atkinson’s objectivity and his “failing career”… Do any of YOU check your facts? The man has over a half dozen NOVELS and loads of published articles. Not to mention another novel on the way (you can check on Amazon). How that translates to a failed “sports journalism” career, I am not sure. But slinging mud while wearing a white dress is silly.

    Lawrence vilifies itself.

    • Bob

      Slinging mud while wearing a white dress?LOL!!I never heard that before.Pretty clever.

  • tony s

    truth sucks jenny get a helmet. hate mongering? its all true. you like most who rebut refuse to accept it. Jay you want to talk with a real lawrence resident who has HAD IT shoot me an email, my family has owned this home since 41.. boy i got stories and truths for you boy!

    • Bob

      I was a Lawrence resident for 21 years.Between getting broke into,fires on my street,the endless picking up of trash on my street(everyday)loud cars,motorcycles and at the time before Romero where calling the cops was a complete waste of time,my house was paid for in full and I just couldn’t take it anymore.Thank god I’m out!

  • Marcus Aureillius

    First of all Jenny, Jay Atkinson’s writing career cannot be disputed…. Just like this article, it is factual (read his novels and articles) if you cant read….take my word for it, I have read all that he has written and he writes the truth…the real issue here is people like you and politicians from Lawrence do not care about the truth. If you did, you all would wake up and realize what a mess you are in.

  • tony s

    btw.. i am someone who has had my house robbed 3 times over the years and has not been on vacation in 10 yrs for fear of it happeneing again. every day i go to work in the back of my mind i wonder if it will happen again. real great bleeping way to live eh. again every good thing is overshadowed by 10 bad things.. REALITY SUCKS BUT YOU SHOULD TRY IT SOMETIME.

  • Ide

    Im so sad to heard that. I growed up in Lawrence and I know the crimes has increased for the past years. Thank you for the informations. Prof Devers was mine professor when I was in HS and Its sad that he does not care about his community or the safety for the others. Thats a shame!

  • Paul M

    Is this the same Jay that was shot while working at a Ice Cream stand in the 80’s over in the Arlington neighborhood. We went to school together. If so, I can understand his passion even more.