Providence is becoming ever more attractive as a place to live. But one shortcoming in the development of the downtown neighborhood is the lack of certain amenities – a full-service grocery store being among them. Another is the dearth of 24-hour delis and the like. If you want to get some high-quality, late-night (or early morning) eats, you’re out of luck. You won’t find what is so easy to patronize in New York City, for instance.
The roadblock in this continuing development of Providence as a round-the-clock livable urban center is the city’s Licensing Board. It has been reticent to grant the required approvals, for a host of reasons.
For one, the board has had two of the city’s major educational institutions opposing the granting of the licenses. Johnson & Wales University and Brown University both point to safety concerns for their students as reasons to oppose 24-hour licenses for the Gourmet Heaven market (Gourmet Heaven’s original store is on Weybosset Street downtown, and it has opened a new store on Meeting Street on College Hill).
The two schools are right to take a paternalistic view of their students. But the schools and the city need to find new ways to accomplish laudable goals, because for Rhode Island to thrive, its major urban center must be supported as it morphs into something far more than it is today.
The Providence public safety commissioner has proposed a trial licensing period of 24-hour operation with an expanded police presence for the two Gourmet Heaven locations, and that is a good start. Innovative thinking will be required to make it work, but the payoff will be great. •