NEW SHOREHAM, R.I. (WPRI) — Block Island residents are fed up with crowds on their island in the wake of COVID-19 and the New Shoreham Town Council took action on the issue Wednesday night.
Council members acknowledged the importance of tourism to the island’s economy, but voted 3-1, with one abstention, to suspend outdoor entertainment licenses in favor of public health.
The exception to this decision are for weddings that have already been approved by the Department of Business Regulation.
Council members say they have seen an uptick in moped accidents, crowds and lines at the ferry, and day drinking at the bars.
Although smaller venues seem to be doing well with social distancing, according to council members, they cannot pick and choose who can keep their outdoor licenses and who can’t.
“We have unruly people here so I think these licenses allow people to congregate crowds and drink maybe too much and be unruly,” Second Warden André Boudreau said. “I’ve come to the decision in my mind that this will help do that, alleviate that issue.”
Martha Ball, another councilwoman, said the state isn’t helping them as they are finding more COVID-19 cases on the island.
In Gov. Gina Raimondo’s briefing on Wednesday, she said the situation is on her radar.
“We need to do better on Block Island,” Raimondo said. “We need to put more resources, more inspectors on Block Island, and I might even have to take some action.”
According to the executive director of the Block Island Tourism Council, Jessica Willi, Block Island sees around 1 million visitors throughout the year and as many as 15,000 during a busy summer weekend.