Senate approves bills to help RI restaurant industry



Source: Press release from the Office of Legislative Press and Public Information

The Senate today approved two measures aimed at bolstering Rhode Island’s restaurant industry as the pandemic drags on for two years.

The bills, now heading to the House of Representatives, will permanently allow restaurants and breweries to sell wine, beer and mixed drinks with takeout orders and expand a provision that temporarily allows restaurants offer outdoor dining.

The first invoice (2022-S 2153), sponsored by Senate Pro Tempore President Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick), eliminates the March 1 expiry date of the law allowing take-out drinks, permanently allowing all Class B liquor license holders and breweries to sell certain quantities of beer, wine and mixed drinks with takeout orders. The provision was originally enacted to help restaurants cope with the pandemic and has proven to be popular, helpful to the industry and safe. The invoice only applies to take-out orders, not delivery.

“Our restaurant industry includes so many valuable small businesses that make Rhode Island a special place. They need all the tools available to survive the pandemic. To-go drinks have helped them stay afloat, generate a little more revenue, and continue to pay their employees and support our economy,” Senator Gallo said. “They were also popular with consumers and encouraged them to order more often. Restaurants and consumers have shown that take-out beverages can be handled very responsibly, so we have every reason to make it a permanent feature of our state’s restaurant scene.

The second invoice (2022-S 2134), sponsored by Sen. Alana M. DiMario (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown), allows restaurants to continue outdoor dining during the pandemic. It would extend a moratorium on the enforcement of any municipal ordinance or zoning requirement that would penalize owners of food and drink establishments for changing or alternating their premises in response to an emergency declaration by the governor or authorities. local municipalities.

“This bill is essential for our restaurants and bars who are still struggling to recover from the effects of the pandemic,” said Senator DiMario. “The legislation will also allow these establishments to apply to make these successful and popular changes, such as outdoor dining areas and take-out windows, permanent. Municipalities have advised that they have not had sufficient time to obtain temporary zoning changes through their appropriate channels to make them permanent and that this extension is welcome.

The moratorium would be effective until April 1, 2023.

Both bills are now heading to the House, where Rep. Jacquelyn Baginski (D-Dist. 17, Cranston) is sponsoring the House Companion to the Takeout Beverage Bill (2022-H 7209) and Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) is sponsoring the Companion of the Outdoor Dining Bill (2022-H 7095).


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Cecil N. Messick