PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The return to more normal services in Rhode Island will look anything but normal as outdoor dining is set to begin on Monday.
The “new normal” is what Gov. Gina Raimondo is calling the three-phased approach to reopening the state’s economy. Outdoor dining at restaurants is part of an extended Phase 1, but some restaurant owners say they are going to hold off and see how it goes.
“It’s certainly something we never thought would happen,” Rebecca Miller, Director of Operations at G Hospitality said.
While restaurants can now provide outdoor dining, along with take-out and delivery options, there are a lot of serious restrictions business owners and patrons must follow.
Miller says G-Hospitality will have four tables outside, which is only a portion of the business they normally would do but is a start.
Raimondo is allowing no more than 20 tables per restaurant and they each must be eight feet apart with no more than five people per table. Outdoor dining will be on a reservation-only basis and guests must wear masks when not eating.
The Beach House General Manager Eric Shapiro says they already have dozens of reservations this week. They will be able to seat 17 tables to fit social distancing restrictions.
“We’re a seasonal restaurants and we rely on the summer months and warm weather to do most of our sales and normally we rely on 200 seats here outside and I’m only able to use 80 seats so it’s going to be a big, big difference when it comes down to it,” Shapiro said.
Restaurants are being encouraged to find creative ways to create an outdoor dining space. Owner of Bacca Vino and Contorni Armando Bisceglia is transforming his parking lot into a patio to accommodate more tables.
“It’s been difficult, Bisceglia said. “People have really had to recreate and reinvent and we’re probably one of the few businesses that’s dying on the vine if we don’t restructure and try something new.”
Restaurants will also have to conduct contact tracing of its guests by collecting the name and phone number of the person making a reservation and keep that information for 30 days — if something happens, the owner can reach out to that person and contact the party.
Other restaurants are hesitant when it comes to outdoor dining.
“There’s a whole lot more than just unlocking the door and opening up,” Kevin Gaudreau, owner of KG Kitchen Bar said.
Gaudreau says he plans to keep his business closed, and opted out of providing take-out or delivery as well, noting it is a tough decision to make.
“April and May are huge, you have Mother’s Day, Easter, and we would have graduations going on this week,” he said.
He added that he wants to wait a few weeks to see how outdoor dining plays out, adding he doesn’t want to invest in reopening, only to have to close again later.
Bristol resident Ken Arruda says it’s been a long two months since restaurants closed for dining.
“We can finally live our lives the way we want to,” Arruda said. “It’s great to get out, it feels so good. It also feels good to give back to the community because they are desperately in need.”
Arruda says he is dining at as many restaurants as he can on Monday.