Nearly 200 restaurants push to reopen indoor dining June 1

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – Restaurants in Rhode Island have teamed up to urge the state to reopen indoor dining by June 1.

The Ocean State Coalition, formed by Rick Simone of the Federal Hill Commerce Association, represents a variety of industries shut down by COVID-19. This week, the coalition wrote a letter to restaurant guests, assuring them that it will be safe to reopen their doors on June 1 to indoor dining, and asked for their support.

The letter was signed by nearly 200 restaurants across the state.


“About 200 restaurants put their names to letter to their guests, and that’s who the letter was addressed to was our guests. Because from an overall impression, if our guests aren’t comfortable coming back then what we’re doing isn’t gonna matter.”

Rick Simone said the letter was not only to make guests feel safe, but also catch the eye of state leaders, to move quickly to get restaurants back open.

“You have your rent, your mortgage, your utility bills due… It’s no different for a restaurant. If we can’t get to that June 1st date, even if it’s a few days later, I think we’re going to be in an unfortunate circumstance where a lot of restaurants are not going to be in the position to re-open forever,” said Simone.

Parkside restaurant on South Main Street in Providence is one of those struggling spots.

“We need help. They have to let us open up,” said owner Steve Davenport. “I’ve been here for 25 years. I’m committed, using my own personal money if I have to for a little while, but at some point, we have to stop the bleeding.”

Davenport said he’s lost 90% of his business. They rely on downtown employees to stop by on their lunch breaks, but with most people working from home, their foot traffic is almost at zero.

That’s why he didn’t hesitate to sign the letter and speak up.

“We needed to speak as a voice, as a whole, and not just one or two restaurants. It had to have been the whole restaurant gang. Everybody.”

Parkside can only fit one table in front of the restaurant with proper social distancing, but luckily Davenport’s neighbor allowed him to put tables in front of his shop. But it’s still not bringing in enough revenue, and he doesn’t see lasting much longer.

“It’s time that we open and do what we do best, and that’s feed the people, make them comfortable, keep them safe. That’s always going to happen, always then, and always will.”

Governor Gina Raimondo acknowledged the letter in her press conference, saying the date of June 1 is “a fair ask” for reopening indoor dining, adding that the state is working around the clock to make it a reality.

© WLNE-TV 2020

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Providence, Regional News, Rhode Island