Dining in the street: Federal Hill to close Atwells Ave so restaurants can expand

Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Federal Hill restaurants will be allowed to bring their dining rooms to the street after the city of Providence approved an application to close Atwells Avenue on Friday and Saturday nights.

Beginning next week, the Federal Hill Commerce Association will begin offering “Al Fresco Dining,” where patrons of participating restaurants will be able to sit outside and enjoy a meal from 5–11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays during the summer.

The plan was hatched as a way to allow restaurants — especially those with tiny eateries or no outdoor patio — to serve more seated parties while remaining spaced out due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Two sections of Atwells Avenue will be closed, from Bradford Street to Dean Street and from Dean Street to Lily Street, according to Rick Simone, the executive director of the Federal Hill Commerce Association.

Simone said more than 20 restaurants will offer full seating or take-out dining tables. Other restaurants expect to be added over the next few weeks.

The city is covering the costs to actual close the street for the first month, while the FHCA is paying for insurance costs, Simone said. The groups are still discussing how the street closure will be paid for after the first month.

“With the high density here, if we hadn’t been doing this, the survival of some of the restaurants would be pretty challenging,” Simone said.

Guests will be required to make reservations beforehand, as well as adhere to state mandates regarding mask-wearing and social distancing.

“It’s going to bring back that old-world feel that you see in Italy and other parts of Europe where you’d be dining in the streets,” Simone said.

Here is the initial list of restaurants that will be participating:

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Providence

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