Proposal would extend closing times of city nightclubs

The Colosseum in Providence.

Anthony Santurri is the owner of one of the largest nightclubs in downtown Providence, the Colosseum.

He's among a group of several nightclub owners who have been working with Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare to figure out a way to make closing down at the end of the night safe.

The clubs have experimented with closing down an hour later on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights before legal holidays, not to sell drinks but to orderly dismiss patrons.

"I think the resistance was people didn't understand what it meant. They heard 3 a.m. and they get all concerned it's the same as 2 a.m. It's really not. You're never going to be open until 3 a.m. It just doesn't work that way," Santurri said.

Pare now proposes the city extend the "soft closing" to nightclubs citywide in a new six-month experiment.

Drinks will stop being served at 2 a.m. but clubs will have until 3 a.m. to send patrons home. Lights will come up, music will slow down.

And hopefully no more screaming and yelling within minutes of the last drink to being served to go home.

"At (1:59 a.m.) you are ripping drinks out of the hands of your patrons. You have five minutes to empty your whole club. You have to physically yell and scream at these people, which means you create tension," Santurri said.

The proposal would be restricted to clubs which hold at least 250 people, and clubs would need to apply to stay open until 3 a.m.

Pare said it's all about public safety.

"At 2 a.m. we were experiencing a big push for people to leave clubs. And with that big push, from security and the clubs, it filled out into our streets and we had chaos and violence and a lot of fighting," he said.

The city Board of Licenses voted last week to research Pare's idea and call a public hearing on it later in the year.