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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — After Providence Mayor Brett Smiley defended controversial changes to this year’s PVDFest, the first-term mayor is now exploring his options.

Just two days prior, the mayor said in a news conference that he was excited to once again make art the focus of the free outdoor festival and reaffirmed his position on not allowing open containers or block parties.

“We made a decision, and I’ll be clear, I made a decision to put the focus of this festival back on the arts, back on the performances, back on the experiences that families and residences can have,” Smiley said Wednesday. “There are plenty of places for people to go get a drink, but the festival itself is not going to have open containers this year.”

In a statement released on Friday, the mayor said his administration was exploring the “feasibility of allowing local restaurants and bars to extend their businesses outside during that weekend.”

The Boston Globe first reported on Friday that Smiley said he would consider allowing block parties by letting restaurant and bars extend their premises into the street.

“The challenge to closing down streets is the level of public safety staffing needed to keep people safe,” Smiley said. “We are historically low in our staffing in the police department right now, but we are trying to find a way to allow for street closures or the extension of premises downtown.”

Smiley didn’t cite public safety as a reason for the changes during Wednesday’s news conference.

Other than changes around drinking, Smiley also decided to move the festival closer to the Providence River in an effort to promote and better accommodate WaterFire. It will also be held in September instead of June.

Rep. Enrique Sanchez, D-District 9, issued a statement Friday on the mayor’s decision to modify the location and timing of the festival.

“After the incredibly difficult few years our small businesses have had, now more than ever it is important to support them through tough times,” Sanchez said. “All of these businesses benefit from PVDFest and look forward to the revenue it brings in.”

“Respectfully, the mayor’s decision to change PVDFest is a step back and will negatively impact our community,” he added.

Alexandra Leslie ( is a Target 12 investigative reporter covering Providence and more for 12 News. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

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