PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Restaurant and bar owners across Rhode Island are not happy with Gov. Gina Raimondo’s newly imposed curfews, many telling 12 News that the loss in revenue attributed to those lost hours will result in significant layoffs.
In response to a surge in coronavirus cases statewide, Raimondo issued a stay-at-home advisory for all residents from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. on weeknights. She said on Fridays and Saturdays, the start would be extended to 10:30 p.m.
Raimondo also ordered restaurants and bars to close their dining rooms at those times, though they can still offer takeout services past 10 p.m. These new restrictions are slated to begin on Sunday, Nov. 8, and will last for at least two weeks.
Her reasoning, she said during her weekly coronavirus briefing, is that the later in the night it gets, people tend to let their guard down more and that’s when the virus spreads.
“Truthfully, it’s unavoidable when you have food and drink and people getting together,” Raimondo said. “The later the night goes on, the more people put their guard down.”
Bob Burke, owner of Pot Au Feu in Providence, said Raimondo’s logic doesn’t make sense.
“I think what we all know is that the virus doesn’t suddenly get more dangerous because of the time on the clock,” he said.
Raimondo said she spoke with several restaurant groups regarding the curfew, adding that she had considered having them close earlier, but compromised after hearing their concerns.
The Rhode Island Hospitality Association released a statement regarding Raimondo’s restrictions, confirming that she had originally wanted them to close at 9:30 p.m.
“As a direct result of RIHA’s advocacy, we were able to gain several concessions from the governor’s office to limit the impact on our industry,” the statement said.
Chris Tarro of Siena Restaurant Group told 12 News he’s very disappointed with Raimondo’s latest restrictions, saying the majority of restaurants and bars are following all of the state’s COVID-19 protocols.
“We’ve spent all this time and effort to take it outside and do all this stuff and now we have just lost outside because it’s going to get cold,” Tarro said. “We are already at basically 50% inside, and now we are losing hours.”
“We are talking about another seating that comes at 8:00, 8:30, 9:00, and that’s a third of your dinner business,” he continued. “When you talk about things that are that big – a third of your business – you’re talking about jobs.”
Edward Brady of Dig-In Dining Restaurant Group echoed Tarro’s concerns, saying “layoffs are absolutely inevitable.”
Raimondo said restaurants and bars that demonstrate a loss of business due to the early closure will be eligible for grants of $2,000 to $10,000.
But Rick Simone of the Federal Hill Commerce Association argued that those grants will not make up for the lost revenue that the majority of restaurants and bars will experience.
“How do we say that that helps? What do we put that toward?” Simone said. “Do we tell the servers that these guys are going to have to lay off, that we are going to take that $2,000 and you have a job for another week? I can only hope that this stays in place for two weeks and that layoffs and closures are not that bad.”
Philippe Maatouk, owner of Layali in Providence, agreed.
“It’s not enough for half of my rent, so it’s going to be a problem” he said.