Business Community Joins Demonstration in Licensing Office to Highlight Ease & Convenience of Online Functionality
PROVIDENCE, RI – The City of Providence’s License Administrator/Registrar of Vital Statistics Heather Kilkenny today joined Chief Innovation Officer Emmanuel Echevarria, staff from the Board of Licenses and Brewmaster and Founder of Revival Brewing Company Sean Larkin, at Providence City Hall for a demonstration of the City’s online licensing system. The system is a result of efforts by Mayor Elorza and City Council officials to modernize licensing processes and make it easier and more convenient for businesses to apply and renew licenses.
“This is another step we are taking to make Providence the most innovative City Hall in New England,” said Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. “As a result, business owners can spend more time on their businesses and not waiting in line at City Hall. I encourage everyone renewing or applying for a license to try it out today.”
As shown during the demonstration, business owners can visit www.providenceri.gov/board-of-licenses/ and select Apply Online which will lead them to the online system offering various options for permits and licenses. A user account will be required to complete an online application that can be paid with credit card or electronic check. As part of the system, Viewpoint offers three application options to choose from once an applicant is logged on. Viewpoint combines applications eliminating the need for applicants to submit duplicate information that is repeated across multiple applications. Currently, the City’s Department of Inspection and Standards and the Vital Records Office accept credit card payments in office.
“I’m pleased that the Licensing Office has taken steps toward a more efficient and accessible platform where new businesses can now apply for licenses online,” said Ward 5 Councilwoman and Majority Whip, Jo-Ann Ryan. “This approach of better utilization of technology is a step in the right direction, and consistent with the recommendations set forth in last year’s report by Former Attorney General Jeff Pine on the overall operations of the department. The Council will continue to monitor the progress of the implementation of these recommendations, and looks forward to additional changes to better serve the needs of businesses and constituents city-wide,” she added.
The system supports applications for all licenses except for Body Works Licenses. This includes Liquor Licenses; Entertainment/ Event and One Day Vendor Licenses for entities that are authorized to have monthly entertainment or are applying for a one-time event or a raffle; and New Food, Restaurant, Tobacco or Petroleum Licenses. The system also processes Building, Electrical, Mechanical, Plumbing, and Raze Building Permits.
The news follows a number of improvements made in the Department of Licensing since Mayor Elorza took office in 2015. In response to feedback from the business community, the administration has worked with City Council, Board of License Commissioners and business owners to improve policies, procedures, and service. In November 2016, Mayor Elorza introduced a Licensing Kiosk to the business community to streamline licensing processes and improve customer experience.
Additional changes include the continuation of pre-hearing conferences for incident violations and penalties that has reduced the hearing procedure and streamlined the violations process, started in August 2016. In November 2016, Board meetings were moved to take place in the Probate Courtroom at City Hall to a larger, more formal and more accessible location. Additionally, night hearings began as of October 2016 to enhance transparency and accessibility. Board members have also undergone ethics and diversity training. Revised department procedures have been drafted and are expected to be implemented in the near future.
As a result of administrative changes to past processes, customer wait times have decreased by 40-50% on average through the physical reorganization of licensing office space over the past two years. During this time, staff members in the Licensing Office were engaged in innovative customer service training and through process improvement– forty different applications for licensing have been consolidated to seven forms to increase customer access and expedite the processing of applications.
In an effort to continuously improve transparency, the Board of Licenses will now host monthly evening hearings for new liquor and 1AM to 4AM licenses. These meetings will be held every fourth Tuesday of the month, with the exception of December due to the holidays. For 2017, meetings are schedule for September 26, October 24, November 28, and December 19.