Hoping to ease pain, new tools encourage RI restaurant owners to apply for grants


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Division of Taxation and the office of Gov. Gina Raimondo are encouraging restaurant owners to apply for grants, in hopes of easing some of the financial hardships caused by the reduced hours ordered to fight the spread of coronavirus.

The Division of Taxation published new frequently asked questions and other application tools Monday for establishments to seek the grants, which range from $2,000 to $10,000.

Where restaurant owners can apply for grants »

Raimondo issued an executive order last week that strongly encourages Rhode Islanders to stay at home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. (or from 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights) because of the rising rate of people contracting COVID-19.

The new restricted hours will be in place for at least two weeks and the rule will be revisited in the days ahead, Raimondo said.

Restaurants are now forced to close to diners when the curfew begins. Takeout and delivery, however, can continue into later hours.

Those restrictions as well as the grant offerings were met with scorn from local restaurant owners. Philippe Maatouk, owner of Layali on Weybosset Street in Providence, said a payment of $2,000 wouldn’t cover half of his monthly rent. Other owners said it was a sure thing that people are going to lose jobs.

Raimondo said the changes were made with the hope of not only addressing the spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, but also preventing stricter lockdown measures down the road.

“If we take the medicine now, change our behavior and rein in our social activity, the medicine’s not going to be that bad,” she said Thursday. “If we wait, if we try to outrun the virus, we’re going to take the medicine later and it’s going to be much stronger medicine.”

On Monday, the R.I. Department of Health reported 212 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized – the most since late May – along with more than 1,500 new cases and nine additional deaths since data was last released on Friday.

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