‘A good summer’: RI businesses hopeful for busy season following pandemic slump

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NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The pandemic has pummeled Rhode Island small businesses over the past year, but as more people get vaccinated, owners are hopeful they’ll recoup some of their losses this summer.

Gov. Dan McKee spent his Tuesday in Newport visiting several of the community’s small businesses, including Midtown Oyster Bar.

Owner Larry Phillips tells 12 News he’s cautiously optimistic business will pick up this summer.

“I don’t think it will be a normal summer, but I am hoping for 80% back to normal – maybe 85%,” he said.

Phillips, among many other businesses in Newport, are setting the bar high for vaccinations. He said his goal is to have all of his employees fully vaccinated by Memorial Day.

McKee said he has considered prioritizing food industry workers for the vaccine, but insists the vaccine supply will outweigh the demand within a matter of weeks.

“If we get the vaccine out at the pace that we think we are, then we are going to have a good summer here in Rhode Island,” McKee said. “There is certainly a priority, in my mind, for the food vendors and people involved with food and the frontline people who are providing this service. So that is going to happen as long as supply is moving in the direction that it is.”

Newport businesses are also struggling to hire new staff ahead of the summer, which on any given year is typically their busiest season.

Phillips said his restaurant is hiring, but he’s unsure how many people to bring aboard.

“We are just nervous in what we will be allowed to do this summer,” he said.

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