PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — It’s a scenario that’s been playing out in drive-thrus across the Ocean State.

Customers who frequent their favorite coffee shops and fast food restaurants are pulling up and receiving the drinks they ordered without straws, even though most lids are tailored specifically for them.

The reasoning behind the new practice is a law passed in January that prevents establishments from voluntarily giving plastic straws to customers without them explicitly asking for one.

While that may work in some restaurants and bars, it creates quite the dilemma for fast food establishments that are designed to be convenient.

Several fast food restaurants, such as Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonalds, have tried to cut customers’ questions off at the pass by hanging signs in their windows that remind everyone of the new law.

But one state representative is trying to make it easier for fast food establishments altogether by giving them an exception.

Rep. Brian Newberry has introduced legislation that would allow fast food employees to voluntarily give drive-thru customers plastic straws with their orders.

The New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association submitted written testimony to the R.I. House Environment and Natural Resources Committee in support of Newberry’s proposal, which they believe “eliminates the frustrating scenario where a customer either walks-out of or drives-off from the store only to realize they forgot to ask for a straw.”

The National Federation of Independent Business also submitted written testimony in favor of Newberry’s bill, stating that small businesses depend on repeat customers for survival.

“If a patron drives away from a take-out restaurant or drive-through not realizing they are missing their straw, it could result in a negative experience for the consumer. That customer will not blame the current prohibition plastic straws, that customer will blame the business,” the testimony reads.

“It would be unreasonable to assume patrons of local cafés and coffeeshops would not expect straws
for an iced coffee or smoothie,” the statement continues. “For customers ordering milk shakes at an ice cream shop, there would be no question they would require a straw for such a thick dessert beverage. That is why this bill makes sense for both consumers and businesses.”

The Rhode Island Department of Health is in charge of enforcing the new law. Spokesperson Joseph Wendelken tells 12 News that the Health Department has yet to receive any complaints regarding violations.