CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Dan McKee ceremoniously signed two bills into law Monday that will benefit Rhode Island restaurants, including one that allows businesses to continue serving alcohol with take-out food orders.
“As we continue Rhode Island’s economic recovery, we must support our small businesses and give them the flexibility they need to thrive,” McKee said during the signing ceremony outside Chaska, a local Indian restaurant. “I am proud to sign these bills to support our local restaurant industry and I thank the sponsors and advocates for getting this over the finish line.”
The first legislation extends the practice of serving alcohol with to-go orders through March 2022. The practice was initiated last year by former Gov. Gina Raimondo, who gave restaurants the green light to begin selling beer, wine and mixed drinks with take-out orders amid the pandemic.
The bill allows Class B liquor license holders to sell up to two bottles of wine, 144 ounces of beer, and mixed drinks in original, factory-sealed containers with takeout orders. It would also allow 144 ounces of draft beer or 72 ounces of mixed drinks in growlers, bottles or other sealed containers. The legislation does not apply to delivery orders.
“The restaurant and hospitality industry has been battered by the economic effects of the pandemic, and is now facing another struggle in the shape of an employee shortage,” Sen. Hanna Gallo said. “We need this industry, which includes so many treasured small businesses that make Rhode Island the special place that it is, to survive the pandemic. This simple extension of take-out drinks will help them stay afloat, bring in a little more revenue, and keep paying their employees and supporting our economy.”
The extension of the policy is welcome news to restaurants across the state, including Chomp Kitchen and Drinks in Providence.
Owner Sam Glynn said alcohol to go is what kept his business afloat last year.
“Our profit margins went up at a time when we were trying to keep many people on payroll as possible, we still had rent to pay we still had all these obligations,” he said.
The second bill prevents third-party delivery services, such as DoorDash, GrubHub and Uber Eats, from listing businesses without their consent.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic saw everyone using and relying upon third-party delivery sources for food and other goods, it is important that both our small businesses and the consumer have trust in the transaction they choose to engage in,” Rep. Robert Craven said. “This law will ensure that the public and our small businesses know exactly who they are doing business with and it will bring transparency and fairness to the rapidly emerging technologies in our lives.”
In a statement to 12 News, GrubHub said it has always given restaurants the choice to opt out of being included on its platform.
The situation is similar with DoorDash. The company said it lists restaurants on its app through a trial period, and restaurants can request to be removed at any time.
GrubHub said when adding a restaurant to its platform, it typically pulls the restaurant’s menu and hours of operation from online.
But Glynn said this allows people to potentially order an item that is no longer available. In an attempt to make up for the error, Glynn said third-party delivery services will substitute that item for one that wasn’t requested.
“That order is going to a call center in California, and then that call center is calling the restaurant placing the order pretending to be you,” Glynn explained. “If there was something on that platform that said we had the ‘bacon-me-crazy burger,’ a burger we haven’t had in five years, you’re expecting that when you get it delivered to your house, but they would just order something else. We would get a call back from you expressing your frustration that you ordered this, but got that.”
“The part that was frustrating to us, was that you would order takeout through one of these platforms thinking that we’re partnering with them when in fact we were not,” he continued.
Both bills went into affect after McKee signed them into law last month, and Monday’s ceremony was held to celebrate their passage.