Under pressure from COVID-19, RI restaurants continue to permanently close


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Even though state health officials given restaurants clearance for outdoor dining and limited indoor dining, the coronavirus pandemic has still forced some restaurants to close permanently.

After 15 years, Luxe Burger Bar in Providence is the latest to announce they will not be reopening due to COVID-19, joining the likes of Oatley’s Family Restaurant and Eleven Forty Nine.

Executive Director of the Federal Hill Commerce Association Rick Simone tells Eyewitness News the closings are expected to continue.

“It’s been over 50% that we’ve had to have a conversation of will they see it through? Will they be able make it? It’s basically month-to-month at this point,” Simone said.

The R.I. Hospitality Association said restaurants sales are nowhere near where they were pre-coronavirus yet. Vice President of Advocacy and General Counsel Sarah Bratko said the unexpected costs, such as Plexiglass dividers, outdoor seating and disposable menus, have been one of the biggest challenges.

“It’s not just the retrofitting in order to reopen, it’s also the cost of food on the food supply that has gone up,” Bratko said. “The restrictions governing dining are strict and people are a little nervous to go back out.”

Both the Federal Hill Commerce and R.I. Hospitality Associations are now demanding help from legislators.

“We’ve spoken to Commerce R.I. repeatedly about this and it’s time,” Simone said. “We need that additional support of whatever that grant amount can be at this point.”

“We are looking for an economic relief package,” Bratko explained. “The economic impact of this can’t be understated and we will be talking about the impact of this on the industry for years to come.”

Regarding new businesses, the Office of the Secretary of State said there were only 586 new business filings in April this year compared to 852 last year, while June of this year actually saw an increase compared to 2019.

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