East Greenwich restaurant hopes to make outdoor dining permanent

West Bay

EAST GREENWICH, R.I. (WPRI) — One East Greenwich restaurant is pushing to continue outdoor dining even once the state of emergency ends.

The Patio on Main opened in February of 2020, just weeks before the pandemic began.

Since then, it’s only offered takeout and outdoor dining in a tent set up in the parking lot.

Angel Winpenny, owner of The Patio on Main, said even through the winter, their method has worked and she’s concerned the outdoor dining option will go away once the state of emergency is lifted.

Governor Dan McKee previously extended the state of emergency through July 9.

A lawyer representing the owners plans to speak before the East Greenwich zoning board meeting Tuesday night, in hopes of making tent dining permanent.

“If we did get approval from the zoning committee, what we would like is to do a nice outdoor renovation where you won’t feel like you are eating at a parking lot anymore.” said Winpenny.

She says they have no intentions of ever using the indoor space, since the make shift outdoor set up has proven to work, and it holds double the capacity. 

The board will have to consider impacts to surrounding business and residents – such as noise, traffic, parking, etc.

At The Patio on Main, they are operating in a spot that was never originally licensed for outdoor seating and that is what Winpenny is trying to change through the zoning board.

She says it would also secure jobs.

“We are actually a very busy restaurant. We did start off with 15 employees, we are up to 50 employees now.” said Winpenny, “It would be really unfortunate for them to be losing their jobs, because we wouldn’t have such a large space for customers to come and dine.”

The East Greenwich Town manager, Andrew Nota told 12 news the local ordinance allowing outdoor dining, such as what this establishment is doing, has expired. However, he notes that officials have not enforced it since the state may soon see changes at the legislative level. 

A Rhode Island House of Representatives spokesperson says lawmakers on Smith Hill are close to approving a bill that would allow spaces, like The Patio’s parking lot, to continue operating Al Fresco-style until at least 2022.

12 News reached out to members of the East Greenwich zoning board to get more information, but did not hear back Monday night.

Winpenny said they are expecting to hear testimony from dozens of community members and employees that support the potential zoning change. 

The virtual zoning board meeting begins Tuesday, June 22 at 7:00PM.

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