Chairman of Providence license board proposes nightclub district on Allens Avenue
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) - Following a violent summer at Providence nightclubs, city leaders are stepping up with ideas to help.
City Councilwoman Kat Kerwin and Travis Escobar of Millenial Rhode Island have kicked off the "PVD After Dark" initiative, an idea to get the community to work together, to promote nightlife but also make it safer.
"What happens when there's a hard 2 a.m. close time across the city, is there's a mass exodus of the clubs at 2 a.m. and suddenly there are hundreds of thousands of people in the streets," Councilwoman Kerwin said to ABC6.
Their idea is a "nightlife mayor", modeled after a position that New York City made in 2018, that makes the so-called mayor the point person for businesses and residents to try and make the scene safe and successful for everyone.
Another idea comes from Providence Board of Licenses Chairman Dylan Conley. Conley tells ABC6 he's been working for the past two years on coming up with a solution to the problems that plague nightclubs in the city, and that solution, he believes, is a 24-hour nightclub district.
“This is an opportunity for us to kind of create economic opportunity in Providence, while at the same time, limiting the nuisances nightclubs create in neighborhoods," said Conley.
Conley proposes the nightclub district be on the industrial stretch of Allens Avenue and Poe Street, between Public Street and Lehigh Street. The location, he says, is far away from residential areas, and would have fewer restrictions for club owners.
"You could apply to do things in that district, such as bottle service, 24-hour liquor service, that you're not allowed to do anywhere else in the state," Conley added.
He hopes the looser rules will attract clubs to move from neighborhoods to the district, and if the stretch is considered a business district, the city could increase taxes. That extra cash, Conley says, could go towards funding a greater police presence.
"Focusing it in one area, where we can protect residents, I think would be an economic boom, while making it safer and having less nuisances."
Not everyone on the council is on board for the idea of a nightclub district.
Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris, whose ward borders the proposed area, issued a statement Monday, saying she wishes she was involved in the conversations up to this point.
"Too often, the Southside is used as a dumping ground for the ideas no one else is willing to house in their own backyards. While homeless shelters, social service agencies, and rehab centers (just to name a few) are all worthwhile investments, why is it always the Southside community that has to compromise quality of life for the better good?" Harris wrote.
City Council President Sabina Matos, who announced the creation of a Night Life Working Group last Thursday to assess the nightclub issues in the city, also issued a statement Monday.
"I am happy to hear how engaged my colleagues have been in this discussion, but I think we are putting the cart before the horse. We need to fully understand the scope and overriding issues around nightlife culture before we move forward with any major initiatives," said Matos.
Conley is a part of the working group, along with public safety officials, the City Council, business owners, and community members. He hopes they'll consider his proposal.
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