House Committee on Small Business hears from hospitality industry on Covid challenges

The Covid-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on the hospitality industry, and experts say it will take years for businesses to recover.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – The Covid-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on the hospitality industry, and experts say it will take years for businesses to recover.

The Rhode Island Hospitality Association presented their findings to the House Committee on Small Business Tuesday. Before the pandemic the industry employed more than 86,000 people. It’s now about half of that.

“Even if everything went back to normal today, we are still looking at the fallout for six months, to a year, and even further,” said Rhode Island Hospitality President Dale Venturini.

Those numbers are starting to slightly improve now that the state is gradually re-opening. But they say business owners will need more financial assistance for rent and retro fitting their businesses to comply with all of the Covid guidelines.

“Right now, we have expenses that we never knew we were going to have, coupled with taking away the business we didn’t know we were going to lose,” said Venturini.

David LaHousse, Owner of Kay’s in Woonsocket told the committee he’s getting by but he’s concerned about what happens once the summer is over.

“Things are okay right now because I can go outside but come the cold weather I won’t have that outside anymore. And I don’t know where I’m going to be. But like everything else, we’ll figure it out,” LaHousse told the committee.”

At Chez Pascal in Providence, the owner testified they’re trying to survive on takeout alone.

“We are not going to do and we haven’t done outdoor dining and I’m not going to do that right now. Nor are we going to do indoor dining. I think that this whole thing has taught us a lot about risk,” said Kristin Gennuso. “So I know and I appreciate risk, but this, what’s going on right now, is a little too risky for me.”

The financial fall-out for the state’s general fund will be millions in lost sales tax revenue. Last year the industry collected nearly $300 million in sales tax. Venturini says 2020 will be nothing like that.

Chairman of the Committee Representative Gregg Amore says it all comes back to increased testing and making people feel safe.

“We need to make sure that people feel comfortable coming back,” said Amore. “And the more testing we do, the more times you see the Chairman of the Small Business Committee out there having dinner, the governor having dinner, Dr. Scott having dinner, that helps send that message.”

According to Amore, the level of financial assistance from the state for these business owners will depend on how much federal money Rhode Island gets in the next round of stimulus funding.


Categories: Coronavirus, News, Politics, Rhode Island, Your Health