PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Rhode Island lawmakers are mulling whether to extend an emergency provision allowing restaurants to sell alcohol to go.
Former Gov. Gina Raimondo gave restaurants the green light last year to begin selling beer, wine and mixed drinks with takeout orders amid the pandemic.
At the time, she hoped it would boost revenue for the already struggling industry.
“This industry has been crushed all over the country and we have to focus on helping them get back to work,” Raimondo said.
Nearly one year after Raimondo signed the provision, lawmakers are considering legislation that would extend it until the end of this year.
“Our goal was to continue to give restaurants some relief so that they could continue to employ local Rhode Islanders, stay afloat and keep the economy going,” Rep. Jackie Baginski said.
Baginski, the bill’s lead sponsor, said it has already cleared the R.I. House, and its companion bill has already been introduced in the Senate.
The proposal has received overwhelming support from several organizations, including the Rhode Island Hospitality Association, the Ocean State Coalition and the Federal Hill Commerce Association.
Rick Simone, the executive director of the Federal Hill Commerce Association, told 12 News the provision has been a serious source of revenue for restaurants. He said he’d like the legislation to include delivery, which it would currently prohibit.
He also said he’d eventually like to see the takeout policy become permanent, but Baginski’s bill stops short of that. The current legislation would expire at the end of 2021.
While she supports the takeout policy becoming permanent, she also acknowledged that “it’s a little bit more complicated than offering drinks with to-go meals.”
“I think that’s going to be a much larger conversation in the General Assembly,” she said.
R.I. Police Chiefs’ Association Executive Director Sidney Wordell tells 12 News while they support helping small businesses, they want lawmakers to ensure there are safeguards in place to make sure people are only consuming the alcohol once they arrive at home.
The executive order has already been extended by Gov. Dan McKee and is set to expire on April 14 if he doesn’t renew it again.