The General Assembly yesterday approved two measures to support Rhode Island’s restaurant industry as the pandemic stretches toward the two-year mark.
The bills, which now head to the governor’s desk, will permanently allow restaurants and brewpubs to sell wine, beer, and mixed drinks with takeout food orders, and extend a provision that assists restaurants in offering outdoor dining.
The first bill (2022-S 2153aa, 2022-H 7209A), sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick) and Rep. Jacquelyn Baginski (D-Dist. 17, Cranston), eliminates a March 1 sunset date on the law allowing takeout drinks, permanently allowing any 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 The provision was originally enacted to help restaurants weather the pandemic, and has proven popular, helpful to the industry and safe. The bill applies only to take-out orders, not delivery.
The second bill (2022-H 7095, 2022-S 2134), sponsored by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) and Sen. Alana M. DiMario (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown), allows restaurants to continue approved outdoor dining during the pandemic. It extends the moratorium on the enforcement of any municipal ordinance or zoning requirement that would penalize owners of food service establishments and bars for any modifications or alternations to their premises in response to an emergency declaration by the governor or local municipal officials. The bill extends the moratorium, which otherwise would expire on April 1, 2022, to April 1, 2023.
In response to this news, Dale Venturini, President/CEO, RI Hospitality Association said in a statement, “The RI Hospitality Association (RIHA) is pleased with the passing of our Alcohol to Go bill and our Outdoor Dining Expansion bill. 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”.
Venturini continued, “These laws provide a much-needed revenue stream to an industry already struggling with reduced profit margins. On behalf of Rhode Island’s entire hospitality community, we’d like to thank the legislature as well as Governor McKee for his advocacy and support”.