The revitalization of Providence has been many years in the making. Leaders have dubbed the city the "Creative Capital," and those trying to reduce the purported brain drain of educated young people leaving the state after college have called for tax credits to incentivize remaining in state after graduation. What these efforts repeatedly miss is the city's lack of appeal as a destination for young people.
It is not that Providence should not be able to compete with bigger cities like New York and Boston. In terms of cost of living, Providence should be at a significant advantage. Yet the sad truth is that Providence is not an exciting city to live in.
The main problem is that Providence nightlife is seriously deficient. The fact that businesses cannot stay open past 1 a.m. without a license — and almost none are open past 2 a.m. — is a big turnoff for young people who are trying to decide between Providence and a "city that never sleeps" like New York.
It is not just a problem in terms of nightlife, but also in terms of general convenience. The fact that convenience stores close down overnight is, frankly, inconvenient.
Anyone who has ever taken advantage of Antonio's dollar slices can testify that the demand for late-night business is there. If businesses could stay open later, some would certainly do so.
And let's face it: Considering the economic downturn, keeping stores open late and attracting young people might be just the thing to turn around the local economy. Extra-long store hours mean more sales and more hours for waiters, bartenders and cashiers.
Allowing businesses to stay open 24 hours per day might also reduce crime. Currently, walking the streets of Providence past 2 a.m. is a dangerous affair because the streets are deserted. The complete lack of passersby make for a golden opportunity for potential criminals to target those who do need to walk around late.
In fact, the city has already considered allowing bars and clubs to stay open until 3 a.m. in order to alleviate the crime caused when they all empty simultaneously. Rather than just moving the problem back to 3 a.m., eliminating the late-night ban altogether would mean a slow trickle throughout the night, making the streets a lot safer.
Recently, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras has proposed lifting the overnight parking ban in order to raise revenue for the city. I applaud Taveras for making this common-sense decision to make living in Providence a little bit more convenient.
Think how much more revenue the city could raise by issuing permits to businesses to stay open 24 hours per day. It would mean more money for maintaining schools, parks and police. It would prevent spending cuts, thereby stimulating the Providence economy at this crucial juncture.
The remaining concern that permitting businesses to stay open all night would disturb the peace and quiet is also flawed. Allowing businesses to stay open late does not void city noise ordinances. Clearly, 24-hour licenses could be contingent on keeping noise levels down or otherwise soundproofing bars, restaurants and clubs.
As it is, businesses can already open as early as 4 or 5 a.m. Yet the majority of us, who do not wake until much later, do not seem to be bothered by all these businesses opening shop before dawn. Why should an early-morning bagel shop be tolerated while the late-night pizza joint be forced to shut down prematurely?
The city has everything it needs to be the destination of choice for the thousands of college graduates the city produces. But most Brown students will leave the city, choosing to relocate to more exciting urban centers like New York and Boston.
Letting businesses stay open 24 hours per day is an opportunity Providence should not pass up. It will mean more revenue for the city, more business for store owners, potentially less crime and more educated young people staying in Providence post-graduation. Finally, Providence will become the exciting Creative Capital it aspires to be.
Ethan Tobias '12 really wanted to go to Louie's when he finished writing this column at 3 a.m. He can be reached at Ethan_Tobias@brown.edu