PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Hospitality Association scored a victory on Thursday as state lawmakers approved passage of two bills that permanently allow restaurants to sell alcohol with takeout orders and provide outdoor dining without zoning penalty.
The practice of alcohol to-go and expansion of outdoor dining into areas such as parking lots and sidewalks was implemented by lawmakers during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic as a means to help the restaurant industry. The current law was set to expire March 1.
The first bill gives restaurants the ability to sell beer, wine, and mixed drinks with takeout orders. It does not apply to delivery orders. It allows Class B liquor license holders and brewpubs to sell up to two 750 ml. bottles of wine, 72 ounces of a mixed-wine drinks, 144 ounces of beer, and mixed drinks with no more than nine ounces of distilled spirits with take-out orders.
The second bill allows restaurants to continue approved outdoor dining expansion, extending the moratorium on enforcement of any municipal ordinance or zoning requirement that would otherwise penalize food service establishments and bars. It extends the moratorium to April 1, 2023.
The two bills are now awaiting Gov. Daniel J. McKee’s signature into law.
Dale J. Venturini, CEO and president of the R.I. Hospitality Association, said she was pleased with the passing of the bills.
“As the industry continues to recover, facing incredible staff shortages, supply-chain issues, and customers still not comfortable dining inside, restaurants remain highly dependent on takeout sales and dedicated outdoor space,” she said.
Venturini said the laws provide a needed revenue stream to an industry struggling with reduced profit margins as the pandemic reaches the two-year mark.
Joshua Miller, a Democratic state senator who recused during the vote and owns Trinity Brewhouse & Restaurant on Fountain Street, said the COVID-19 pandemic “has had a devastating impact on the restaurant, hospitality and tourism sectors of Rhode Island’s economy. Any relief is important, especially to the over 70% of restaurants that did not receive federal COVID relief funding.”
Kristen Adamo, CEO and president of the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the past two years have been a constant battle for restaurants and these two pieces of legislation allows for the continuation of two additional revenue streams for them.
“A variety of outdoor dining options is particularly helpful to tourism, as it is attractive to visitors and it adds to the vibrancy of our neighborhoods,” she said. “We are really grateful to the legislature and to the R.I. Hospitality Association for championing this legislation. It will really help.”
Sanjiv Dar, owner of the Indian restaurant Chaska at Garden City, said the legislation aids his restaurant as it continues to adapt to the pandemic. “As times change we all need to adapt and survive,” he said. “Both the measures will help our industry in finding more opportunities for our staff and help sustain our profitability.”
Cassius Shuman is a PBN staff writer. Contact him at Shuman@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter @CassiusShuman.
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