‘This isn’t party politics, this is survival’: Cranston approves resolution urging state to lift business curfew

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CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Cranston City Council unanimously approved a resolution Thursday that asks the state to allow businesses to once again operate during their normal hours.

The resolution, which was introduced last week, calls on Gov. Gina Raimondo and the R.I. General Assembly to “adjust public health guidelines and executive orders that are harming Rhode Island’s small business community.”

In early November, Raimondo ordered businesses, such as restaurants, bars, personal services, gyms, and recreational facilities, to end service by 10 p.m. (10:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays) as part of a statewide stay-at-home advisory.

At the time, Raimondo argued state inspectors discovered people were letting their guard down frequently the later they were out in public. The restrictions remained in effect during the state’s three-week “pause,” and are still in effect now.

“Small business is the fabric of our community,” Council President Chris Paplauskas said. “If this goes on any longer and you’re not going to make it. COVID-19 is extremely serious, we take that matter seriously, we’re just asking that small businesses be able earn a living with a few extra hours at night.”

The resolution argues the restrictions were supposed to be temporary, and have “caused significant and, in some cases. irreparable harm to restaurants, bars, social clubs, stores, vendors, indoor recreational facilities and other small businesses.”

Heather Santoro, who works at PJ’s Pub, said the state’s order has had a negative domino effect on business.

“The time restriction has not only affected what we are able to do each day of the week, it’s had a major effect on our hiring process,” Santoro said. “Nobody wants to sign up for a four-hour shift, and that’s the only shift they have.”

When asked about whether the state will lift the curfew, R.I. Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said doing so now would be premature.

“We are at a solid place right now, we wouldn’t want to make changes too early that would put all businesses at risk,” Alexander-Scott said, adding that it will remain in place for at least three more weeks.

But now that the resolution has passed, the Cranston City Council hopes the state hears their message loud and clear.

“This isn’t party politics, this is survival,” Councilor Jessica Marino said. “What is the problem with them staying open during their hours when they are abiding by the rules? We have a system in place, we have rules, they have invested in that which is a costly investment.”

The Smithfield Town Council passed a similar resolution earlier this week, as did the East Providence City Council.

R.I. Sen. Frank Lombardi attended Cranston City Council’s virtual meeting Thursday and announced that he plans to introduce a resolution at the state level within the next week or so.

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