With reopening plan announced, RI restaurants prepare to test the water


WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) ─ It’s no secret that going out to eat will look much different in the coming months as the state adjusts to “the new normal,” and many Rhode Island restaurants are making the adjustments needed to safely reopen.

Gov. Gina Raimondo unveiled her three-part plan to reopen the economy on Monday, which could begin as early as May 9, as long as everyone continues to practice social distancing.

In the first phase, the majority of restaurants will still be limited to takeout and delivery services only, however, some will be allowed to reopen dine-in seating for a limited number of guests.

Restaurants that reopen their dining rooms must ensure patrons are able to practice social distancing, and they cannot utilize reusable plates, silverware or menus.

Laurie O’Rourke, owner of O’Rouke’s Bar and Grill, said she’s fully prepared to transition over to using single-use plastic utensils, plates and cups, especially if it keeps her customers safe.

“It’s really not that much,” she said. “For your safety’s sake, it’s important.”

At Iggy’s Doughboys and Chowder House in Warwick, owner David Gravino said they already have a protocol in place to ensure all customers are abiding by Raimondo’s social distancing mandates at their takeout window.

“Everyone is lined up six feet apart,” he said. “We have chaperones to make sure everyone is at safe distances, we have cones.”

Raimondo acknowledged that not all restaurants will be able to keep their guests at a safe distance, which is why most won’t be allowed to resume dine-in services right away. She also said the reopening of restaurants will look different depending on the location.

Gravino said at Iggy’s, they plan to reopen the outside patio and add additional picnic tables. O’Rourke said she plans to remove certain tables to create more space between guests.

But even with the new protocols, many restaurant owners are still unsure of what the new dining experience will look like.

“A family of four comes in, everyone is wearing masks, the staff is wearing masks — I’m not sure how that’s going to go,” Gravino said.

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