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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

City Council Hires Former Attorney General to Conduct Organizational Review of Board of Licenses

The Providence City Council today announced that the Law Office of Lynch & Pine will conduct a comprehensive review of the city’s licensing board. Former attorney general Jeffrey Pine has been hired by the Council to examine the Board of Licenses’ current procedures and identify areas in which the board can better serve the needs of community residents and business owners. The initiative is part of the City Council’s continued efforts to ensure best practices that promote vibrant, safe neighborhoods for residents citywide.

Assessing the Board of Licenses’ adjudication process and equipping board members with tools for best practices are among the Council’s top priorities. “The City must provide a predictable framework for businesses to operate in Providence,” said Council President Luis Aponte. “We want to ensure that fair policies and procedures are in place and make the process more effective, enforceable, and consistent.”

“Our priorities focus on safety in our neighborhoods and the robust, citywide opportunities we can create for our economy,” said Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan. “The Board of Licenses is the economic engine for the City of Providence and it needs to function effectively.”

Striking a balance between promoting a healthy business environment throughout the city and serving the needs of neighborhood residents has been a challenge for the board. “In recent years, we’ve seen a change in nightlife trends that has directly impacted the quality of life for our residents,” said Aponte. “We’re seeing more neighborhood-based restaurants that operate as entertainment venues by night. The result is an onslaught of licensing issues that really affect the quality of life in our neighborhoods, and as City Councilors, it’s our responsibility to figure out how to solve them.”

In the past year, neighborhood association groups, including the Jewelry District Association and the Federal Hill Commerce Association, have called on the Board of Licenses for reform. “I have been vocal in my concerns about the Board of Licenses’ current policies and procedures,” said Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan. “Through the Committee on Municipal Operations and Oversight, I’ve launched a fact-finding mission to evaluate the Board’s operations and identify areas for improvement. The next step involves a comprehensive, third-party review to provide the Council with a cohesive set of recommendations that empower the Board of Licenses to better serve the city.”

“I have many concerns about the way the Board of Licenses functions,” said Councilman Michael Correia. “I don’t think it’s open and transparent to the people of Providence, especially to constituents who are unable to take time out of the workday to discuss their concerns. Those voices need to be heard, especially when an establishment is effecting their neighborhood’s quality of life. I welcome Mr. Pine’s insight and look forward to working with him.”

“I look forward to this project, and I will do my best to examine the issues in an effective, productive manner,” said Pine, who served two terms as attorney general for the State of Rhode Island and is co-founder of the Providence-based firm Lynch & Pine.