PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Starting Friday, Rhode Island businesses will once again be able to decide whether employees and customers need to wear masks.
To business owners like Anthony Tarro, this comes as “a big sigh of relief.”
“I think people are going to feel [they] can get back out there again,” said Tarro, co-owner of Siena Restaurant Group.
Tarro said vaccinated patrons will not be required to wear face coverings while inside their restaurants. That being said, he’s still encouraging those who aren’t vaccinated to mask up.
“It’s on the honor system, we’re not going to be checking COVID cards and we hope that everybody involved will be responsible enough to be honest,” he explained.
The mask mandate is being lifted just days before Valentine’s Day and Super Bowl Sunday. When asked whether this would boost business, Kay’s Restaurant owner Dave Lahousse said absolutely.
“One-hundred percent,” he said. “It’s been a tough couple of years and we’re still standing … but it’s still tough.”
Rick Simone, president of the Federal Hill Commerce Association, said lifting the mandate will help build consumer confidence.
“While we recognize everyone has the right to wear a mask at any time of their choosing, a mandate is no longer needed,” Simone said. “We must remain competitive with our neighboring states of Massachusetts and Connecticut.”
Dale Venturini, president and CEO of the R.I. Hospitality Association, said while she supports Gov. Dan McKee’s decision to lift the mandate, she also has an important message for customers.
“The hospitality industry continues to work hard to provide guests with the best experience possible, including keeping patrons and staff safe,” Venturini said in a statement. “While the state mandates may be dropped, we recognize that business owners may choose to require proof of vaccination and/or mask-wearing in their own businesses and we ask that those decisions are respected.”