RI restaurants urge Raimondo not to order businesses closed amid second wave of COVID-19 cases

Business News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Hospitality Association (RIHA) and the Ocean State Coalition are asking Gov. Gina Raimondo not to close restaurants in response to a second wave COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

President and CEO of RIHA Dale Venturini sent a letter to Raimondo Wednesday saying the data sides with restaurants because they are not the main cause in the spike.

Both Raimondo and the Rhode Island Department of Health have said that dozens of recent cases have been traced back to small social gatherings in people’s homes.

Venturini believes that’s enough to keep restaurants open, suggesting three alternatives to a shut down: reducing table size from eight people to five, keeping take-out and delivery as well as continuing outdoor dining.

“We spent a lot of time and effort and money in the take it outside campaign,” Venturini said. “We want to make sure that stays viable.”

Restaurant owners like Alex Tomasso are concerned about what a shutdown would do for business. Tomasso opened The George on Washington in Providence earlier this year and said the domino effect of closing would be felt by everyone in the industry.

“There’s plenty of people that rely on these restaurants, mine included to feed their family, to pay their bills,” Tomasso said.

The Ocean State Coalition sent a similar letter to the State House, which included more than 100 restaurants who are concerned about a possible shut down.

Bacco in Providence was one of those restaurants. Armando Bisceglia opened Bacco two weeks before the pandemic began back in March. He survived the first executive order to close indoor dining, but isn’t sure he’ll be as lucky the second time around.

“Without the holidays a lot of these restaurants are going to go down,” Bisceglia said. “There’s no way that they can survive it.”

According to the Ocean State Coalition, there are approximately 50,000 reservations made at Rhode Island Restaurants for Thanksgiving. Bisceglia believes that people are much safer at restaurants like his than they are staying at home during the holidays.

“We have rules and regulations and we’ve been following the rules and regulations,” Bisceglia said. “Where else is everybody going to go? They are going to go home and now we’re back to square one again.”

During an interview Tuesday with 12 News Now at 4 anchor Kim Kalunian, Raimondo said she might implement more restrictions on businesses if the data continues to trend upward.

She said she doesn’t want to, but will take action if it’s needed.

“Thing that’s weighing on me is closing businesses and I am going to do everything I can to avoid that, or put it off as long as possible,” Raimondo said.

Gov. Gina Raimondo’s next coronavirus briefing is scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday.

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