City Council President Sabina Matos to Introduce a Series of Nightlife Safety Measures

Dec 3, 2019 | 0 comments

City Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15) announced today that she will be issuing several pieces of legislation around nightlife entertainment and establishments.

“Two months ago, I asked members of my policy team to convene with representatives from the Board of Licenses, the Solicitor’s office, the Department of Planning, the Police Department, and leaders from the nightlife community to help produce a comprehensive set of strategies to preserve public safety and the enjoyment of our City’s nighttime businesses,” stated City Council President Sabina Matos. “Every summer, we read the headlines about nightclub-related acts of violence claiming young people’s lives and disrupting the peace of the neighborhoods they do business in. After a thorough assessment of what is and isn’t being done by the city in our regulation of nightlife establishments, I am proposing a comprehensive set of ordinances and resolutions that will set new and clear expectations for nightlife establishments, curb violence, and promote tranquility in the neighborhoods our children sleep in.”

The first proposed ordinance is one that prohibits the issuance of any new 2:00 AM liquor licenses in C-1, C-2, and C-3 zones. These specific zones are commercial corridors that run adjacent to residential neighborhoods (Atwells Avenue, Broad Street, Chalkstone Avenue, etc.) This will accomplish several things:

  • It will stop new 2 AM nightlife establishments from setting up shop next door to predominantly residential neighborhoods.
  • It will spur the concentration of 2 AM nightlife establishments in downtown and other primarily non-residential locations, creating a local destination which is also easier to police and keep safe.
  • Any new 1 AM nightlife establishments in C zones would allow patrons the opportunity to visit nearby 2 AM food establishments; supporting these food businesses and allowing patrons an opportunity to sober up. Currently, businesses like food trucks close at the same time patrons are let out.
  • Any new 1 AM nightlife establishments in C zones will let out sooner than their 2 AM counterparts, effectively staggering when patrons exit night clubs and bars. This dissuades the mass exodus and massive crowds which often lead to confrontations.

The second proposed ordinance will require B-Class businesses to have video surveillance both indoors and outdoors at entrances and exits. People behave differently when they are being monitored. Often times, cameras preempt most incidents of violence before they begin. This measure will also help public safety officials in their investigations of crimes. Witnesses can be uncooperative when they’ve consumed too much alcohol. Video surveillance is an important missing piece in our nightlife public safety approach.

The third ordinance will create a codified schedule of penalties for violators, and will further define what a “nightclub” is, based upon the definition in the Zoning Ordinance. Currently, there is no clear codified definition of what a nightclub is, and several establishments create a nightclub environment without abiding by the rules that the N-license imposes. This will ensure that businesses and managers are provided clarity and predictability in how they operate, and when violations occur what they will expect to see regarding fines.

The five violations that are punitively codified in the third ordinance are as follows:

  • Entertainment without a license
  • Prohibited bottle service
  • Enforcement of operating hours and bar service
  • Underage drinking and sales
  • Smoking in public places

These codified fines will also provide the State’s Department of Business Regulations (DBR) a progressive guideline to refer to if and when a Providence business seeks to appeal.

In addition to these ordinances, President Matos is introducing a series of resolutions regarding administrative changes at the Board of Licenses.

City Amendment Resolutions

  • The first resolution would require that any Class-B license application be cleared by zoning before their application is finalized. This is important because in the current process, an applicant can finish their application and later find out they are prohibited by zoning to operate in that corridor.
  • The second and final resolution will be to give licensing officers and zoning enforcement cross-training on a universal platform that collects a given establishment’s licenses, its permitted zoning uses, past violations, and is available to officers and enforcement on an app that is easily downloaded to mobile devices.

President Matos continued, “I want to thank the Board of Licenses Chairman, Dylan Conley, Heather Kilkenny the Administrator of the Board of Licenses, the Board members, Mario Martone, Esq. from the Solicitor’s office, Robert Azar from the Planning Department, Sergeant David Tejada of the Providence Police Department and all the nightlife business owners – especially Anthony Santurri – that offered their support, guidance, and insight on how we can support responsible ownership of nightlife establishments while also promoting public safety. I believe that these measures establish a new tone moving forward and will also change the negative narrative given to the nightlife culture in our city.”

The ordinances and resolutions will be referred to committee where they will be vetted and allow for public comment and discourse.

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