PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — In between downpours, Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee spent Wednesday afternoon visiting restaurants and shops along Atwells Avenue in Providence.
McKee and other state leaders joined the Federal Hill Commerce Association to speak with business owners face to face.
The area, famous for its Italian cuisine and more recently Al Fresco dining, was not spared by the impacts of the pandemic. Many owners say they are still working to recover.
“It was really nice for him to come up. You can see that he has a concern for small businesses,” Venda Ravioli manager Michael Costantino said of McKee.
“He wants to help us in any way that he can and I think it’s a really good step forward for us, coming out of this pandemic,” Costantino continued.
Many business owners are familiar with McKee, after working with him while he was the state’s lieutenant governor. Throughout the pandemic, he hosted regular meetings with them over Zoom.
Rick Simone, the head of the Federal Hill Commerce Association, said the work McKee has done over the past 50 days is a “true help to the small business community.”
“He understands small businesses and he is showing that again today by his willingness to come out to speak to everyone,” Simone said.
The governor was seen shaking hands with workers down the block, while listening to their various concerns.
Many are seemingly still fighting to have more patrons in their dining room at once.
“It’s been a lot of great conversations, he’s hearing a lot of the same things over and over again,” Simone added. “There are still a lot of needs, but we believe we can get there. We’re very optimistic.”
McKee mirrored that sentiment, calling local business owners “optimistic and resilient.” He also echoed the message that they want to see capacity go up and restrictions go down.
“We expect to have some good, strong announcements tomorrow about how we can do that,” McKee said, referring to his weekly COVID-19 briefing at 1 p.m. Thursday.
When asked about restrictions being lifted in Connecticut, McKee hinted at similar changes coming to Rhode Island.
“Remember, Connecticut is May 19. I think we will certainly have better, or less restrictions before they do,” he said.
12 News will broadcast Thursday’s briefing live on WPRI 12 and right here on WPRI.com.