PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Due to reports of overcrowding in recent weeks, Gov. Gina Raimondo has ordered all Rhode Island bars to stop serving drinks earlier than usual.
Raimondo has signed an executive order stating that bars must close at 11 p.m. This does not apply to people who want to drink while eating dinner at a table.
“Restaurants that have a bar can stay open,” she said in her Wednesday briefing. “They can serve drinks with dinner at a table, but the bar area must be closed.”
On Wednesday, Raimondo also said that the state’s data shows cases are spreading at bars, and inspectors have found them to be “OK, not great” at enforcing the rules, with an estimated 20% not separating bartenders from patrons.
The new order will limit anyone from sitting at the bar, or in the bar area past 11 p.m.
Business owners told Eyewitness News they’ve already made investments to meet previous standards and they feel the goalpost keeps moving.
“So all of these bars that have spent thousands of bars on plexiglass, on making their establishments safe, to meet the COVID regulations, now have to give up those seats at least an hour early, before they close their kitchen,” Director of Federal Hill Commerce Association Rick Simone said.
Angela Freid, owner of Mr. Bigg’s Saloon in Johnston, says the new closing time means she’s giving up about eight seats, two hours before last call.
“I just feel like 20% of the bars are not in compliance and its killing the 80% who are in compliance, so what we need to do is band together,” Freid said. “The 20% who are not in compliance, close them down. Don’t hurt the small businesses that are following the rules.”
The Ave Bar & Grill have been operating without bar seating since reopening, allowing customers to sit only at tables.
“Because of the restrictions it just made more sense,” Krisily Kennedy, bartender at the Ave Bar & Grill, said. “It’s safer for us, it’s safer for our customers. We don’t really have to put much stress in them getting us sick or getting them sick, because we want to be here to serve them and if we get sick we can’t.”
Raimondo’s executive order runs seven days a week until Sept. 6, unless it has been extended.