On Wednesday, October 14th, The RI Hospitality Association (RIHA) kicked off its #BYOBlanket campaign, geared toward helping Rhode Island’s restaurants extend the outdoor dining season, with the first distribution of more than 12,000 blankets, thousands of hand warmers, 370 outdoor heaters and thousands of pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) taking place at the Providence Marriott Downtown at 1 Orms Street, which allowed RIHA to store the supplies in its ballroom for ten days.

#BYOBlanket supplies are being distributed to any restaurant that signed up on RIHA’s website and offers outdoor seating, regardless of membership in the association.

“There is a robust national push to extend outdoor dining as long as possible during this pandemic to give our vital restaurant industry a boost,” said Dale J. Venturini, President/CEO of the RI Hospitality Association in a statement. “For those customers who enjoy outdoor dining but don’t love the cooler temperatures, we hope these blankets and additional supplies will encourage them to continue to enjoy al fresco dining well into the fall, and that the extension of the outdoor dining season provides much-needed relief to restaurant operators throughout the state.” 

Through a partnership with Ocean State Job Lot (OSJL), RIHA purchased the blankets and hand warmers at a significant discount using the funds secured through Commerce RI’s “Take It Outside” grant, allowing RIHA to stretch the dollars they received to purchase additional supplies for the RI restaurant community.

“When the opportunity arose to lend a helping hand to our fellow Rhode Island business owners, we were happy to do so,” said Paul Conforti, Chief Marketing Officer, Ocean State Job Lot in a statement. “Through our ownership of Red Stripe Restaurant and Mill’s Tavern in Providence, Job Lot has direct ties to the state’s hospitality industry and we understand the struggle on a very personal level. We’re very proud to partner with RIHA on such a trailblazing initiative and hope that these supplies provide relief to the many restaurant operators who applied to receive them.”

The number of free blankets and hand warmers that each restaurant receives is determined by its number of outdoor seats. PPE, which includes masks and hand sanitizer, was distributed via request. Recipients of outdoor heaters were chosen through a lottery system.

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