East Providence Council gives first passage to revised business hours ordinance

Enlarges pool of those potentially eligible to remain open overnight

By Mike Rego
Posted 2/6/20

EAST PROVIDENCE — Upon gaining dispensation from the City Council, more businesses throughout East Providence could soon be able to stay open during overnight hours.

At its February 4 …

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East Providence Council gives first passage to revised business hours ordinance

Enlarges pool of those potentially eligible to remain open overnight

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — Upon gaining dispensation from the City Council, more businesses throughout East Providence could soon be able to stay open during overnight hours.

At its February 4 meeting, the council gave the first of two necessary approvals to a revised ordinance in the charter, “Sec. 8-5. Closing hours for businesses,” (see attachment) offering a larger group of proprietors the option to operate between 1 a.m.-6 a.m.

The so-called “special permit” would be granted on a six-month probationary basis. Assistant City Solicitor Dylan Conley told the council it had broad discretion of the process. He said it could implement conditions on the permit and it could at any time revoke the permit immediately for any reason, pending a review period. The cost of the permit would be $125 annually.

Existing language in the charter offers special status only to “taverns, pharmacies, victualing houses (restaurants) and bowling alleys.” The revised ordinance would extend those privileges to also include “shop, store, health clinic, laundromat, gym or other place of trade or entertainment.”

The vote was not unanimous. Council president and Ward 1 representative Bobby Britto cast against, making it a 4-1 tally.

Mr. Britto expressed his support for offering the permit to health clinics or gymnasiums, but suggested in the near term the proposed changes could take an undesired turn.

“This could turn into something entirely different or a lot bigger than we anticipated,” he added. “And what I mean by that is that when we start allowing certain businesses to be open at certain times of the day or early morning, that just opens up other businesses to say, ‘Hey, if this business is going to do it, why can’t I do it?’…I think it’s a recipe for disaster going forward. We have a nice clean city and at those times in the morning…I think we’re opening up more and more problems.”

While accepting Mr. Britto’s concerns, Ward 3 Councilor Nate Cahoon, who voted in the majority, said, “I think we’ve put in the necessary protections going forward.”

Ward 2 Councilor Anna Sousa once again sponsored the revisions. She had previously offered up similar legislation when a laundromat began operations in the city last year with the intention of being open 24 hours. The council declined to approve an earlier incarnation of the revisions.

Last week, Ms. Sousa explained among the reasons for the amendments were to make the city “business friendly and meeting the needs of the community in certain ways.”

Ms. Sousa stressed the changes were not meant to give blanket opportunities for all businesses to stay open 24 hours and that it would be akin to other “special” licenses like those allowing for holiday operations.

Ms. Sousa added the application process would determine the following: “What the business is? Where the business is located in the community? And how it is going to fit? If it’s in a residential area that abuts homes, it’s likely not going to be a good fit for the community…that would be under the discretion of the council to make those decisions.”

The discussion also included a reference to the city’s existing provisions precluding the service of alcohol after 1 a.m. The amendment would not change that current limitation.

The required second passage for implementation of the revised ordinance is expected to be up for a vote at the council’s next meeting scheduled for Tuesday night, Feb. 18.

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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.