As RI begins to reopen, Providence launches outdoor dining registration


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Restaurants in Providence looking to participate in Phase 1 of Gov. Gina Raimondo’s plan to reopen the economy will have to register with the city first.

All restaurants planning on offering outdoor dining beginning May 18 must register with the city prior to reopening. Those looking to offer outdoor dining that would extend beyond their establishments, such as into parking lots or roadways, must also apply for a temporary license to do so.

Mayor Jorge Elorza is encouraging restaurants citywide to consider outdoor dining as part of their reopening plan.

“Though the impacts of COVID-19 have been drastic, our city has always come together to repair, rebuild and remerge stronger when faced with incredible challenges,” Elorza said. “As we rethink our path forward, I remain focused on bringing our small businesses the supports they need to remain a part of our community after COVID-19.”

Outdoor dining plans must comply with the reopening guidelines provided by the state, which includes limiting dining groups to five people or less and spacing tables at least 8 feet apart.

Rick Simone with the Federal Hill Commerce Association assisted Elorza’s office as they formed the new regulations allowing restaurants to branch out.

“If you want to maximize your seating, you have to have this creativity and use the parking lot, use the park across from you, use the parking spaces in front of you,” he explained.

Businesses that have already been approved for outdoor dining or had previously offered outdoor dining at their establishments are still required to register and adhere to the guidelines set forth by the state. Live entertainment at restaurants offering outdoor dining is not allowed at this time.

Rhode Island Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor answered questions regarding outdoor dining via Facebook live Tuesday evening. One of the top questions asked was how restaurants will conduct contract tracing of its guests.

“Really all you have to do is collect the name and the phone number of the person making the reservation and keep that for 30 days, so if something does happen you can reach out to that person and contact the party,” Simone explained.

During the live stream, viewers sometimes became hostile toward Pryor and his answers to their questions. Simone said that’s partly because other industries aren’t being put under the same restrictions as restaurants and their livelihoods are at stake.

“The virus may last a year, it may last a year-and-a-half,” Simone said. “The effects of the virus on individuals, their families, businesses and so on – this could last five, 10 years.”

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