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Governor McKee Signs Outdoor Dining Bill into Law

NARRAGANSETT, RI – Governor Dan McKee was joined by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee, Sen. Alana M. DiMario, Narragansett Town Manager James Tierney, and local restaurant owners today for the ceremonial signing of legislation (2021-H 6119B / 2021-S 0654A) that allows restaurants to continue approved outdoor dining. The legislation puts a moratorium on enforcement of municipal ordinances or zoning requirements that would penalize restaurant and bar owners for modifying their premises to allow for outdoor dining.

"This is a win for our local businesses," said Governor Dan McKee. "Restaurant and bar owners have faced extraordinary challenges since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but have still managed to adapt to serve and accommodate their customers and employees. Outdoor seating has allowed business owners to increase seating capacity and recoup some of the losses they incurred due to the pandemic. I'm proud to sign this legislation into law as it's a win for the businesses and for customers who want to dine outside. I want to thank Representative Carol Hagan McEntee and Senator Alana DiMario for introducing this legislation which helps our restaurant industry continue to thrive as a strong and resilient part of our local economy."

"Our restaurants are consistently ranked as one of our state's best assets and this storied industry has been truly decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic. While many businesses have sadly closed their doors for good, our hospitality industry has adapted and many restaurants and other businesses have invested great sums of money in order to continue operating in a safe manner for the public. In particular, the 'take it outside' initiative proved to be a great success and the purpose of this legislation is to allow these businesses to continue 'taking it outside,' especially as the weather is more favorable once again. Presently, many, if not all of these businesses, would be running afoul of their local zoning laws once our current emergency declaration is lifted and we cannot let that happen to these already struggling small businesses. This bill will give our restaurants and other hospitality businesses the chance to earn back the significant losses they have all incurred over the past year, we owe them all that much," said Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett), Chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee.

"This bill is essential to our restaurants and bars who are still struggling to recover from the effects of the pandemic. The legislation will also allow these establishments to apply to make these successful and popular changes permanent, such as the outdoor dining areas and takeout windows. It was inspiring to see how establishments and patrons adapted to the 'new normal' of COVID-19 and in order to continue this momentum through our summer of recovery, these small businesses need and deserve to continue with the operations that allowed them to survive over the past 18 months," said Sen. Alana M. DiMario (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown).

The ceremonial bill signing took place outside of a plaza housing several restaurants. The business owners, as well as local hospitality and commerce leaders, joined the Governor for the signing.

"We are so pleased to see the extension of approved, outdoor dining in Rhode Island," said Dale J. Venturini, President/CEO of the RI Hospitality Association. "The hospitality industry was devastated throughout the pandemic with total shutdowns and then limited operations. As we work toward operating fully while keeping health and safety best practices in place, making approved outdoor dining easier provides welcome additional space during the summer months and beyond."

"Last fall, Governor McKee spent a day here in Narragansett meeting with various business owners such as Tim Pelleccione from Pelly's Place," said Peg Fradette, Executive Director of the Narragansett Chamber of Commerce. "Tim, along with his business neighbors, pulled together a makeshift outdoor venue on the fly. They exemplified the silver lining of the pandemic by sharing both resources and customers. This led to the 'plazas' and many of our north end businesses reporting their most successful season ever. We are thrilled and honored the Governor is back to sign this important legislation in this particular location."

Under the law, the moratorium will remain effective until April 1, 2022.