RI restaurant owners ask to reopen dining rooms by June 1

Business News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ More than 250 restaurants have signed a letter asking Gov. Gina Raimondo to allow indoor dining statewide starting June 1.

The restaurants are also seeking clear guidelines on how they can safely reopen their dining rooms once they’re allowed to.

“We have done all that has been asked of us to help flatten the curve,” the letter says. “Many of us are now doing all we can just to get by while helping our team members and our community at the same time. Takeout, delivery and outdoor seating with reduced capacities will not sustain us for long.”

More: List of restaurants that signed the letter »

Raimondo previously said she hopes to start Phase 2 of her plan to reopen the state’s economy in June. But restaurant owners, like the Brick Valley Pub’s Ralph Plumb, are wondering what they should be doing to prepare in the meantime.

“What is it really going to look like when we’re able to open back up inside?” Plumb questioned.

Adjusting to capacity limits and social distancing orders will take time, which is why many restaurant owners are asking for indoor dining guidelines in advance, according to Rick Simone of the Federal Hill Commerce Association.

“The preparation and timing are key, not just for the Department of Health, but for employees,” Simone said. “Bringing the employees back, resetting the way you have to do menus – there is a lot involved to make it happen.”

“If our customers don’t feel safe coming back, there’s no sense in restaurants reopening,” he added.

In order to ensure the safety of both customers and staff, Simone said restaurants also need statewide expectations, unlike the recently implemented guidelines for outdoor dining which vary by municipality.

“The licensing process that’s happened across the state has been a little challenging,” Simone said, adding that less than a dozen Federal Hill restaurants have opted to offer outdoor dining.

“If they want it to happen across the board, the more time they have to say ‘OK, this is what it’s going to look like,’ the more time people are going to have to execute that plan,” Plumb explained.

In the meantime, Simone said an announcement will be made soon that will allow all restaurants on Atwells Avenue to offer outdoor dining.

Where we stand: Current reopening plans for RI, Mass. »

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