Newport city manager raises concerns over trash from restaurant takeout, public drinking

NEWPORT, R.I. (WLNE) – As the weather warms up and more people visit Newport, a city leader is raising concerns surrounding food and alcohol take out at restaurants.

Newport City Manager Joe Nicholson brought two issues to the city council Tuesday, one regarding trash in the city from takeout, the other, public drinking now that restaurants can serve alcohol with to-go orders.

“It’s my job to point out issues to the council of concern, and particularly in this time when things are obviously abnormal,” Nicholson said Wednesday.

Nicholson acknowledged that restaurants are just trying to do their best, but said these issues are a concern as more people flock to the city in the warmer months.

He said he hopes to find a common ground among restaurant owners and the city when it comes to serving alcohol.

“I’m concerned about public drinking in the public ways and streets and sidewalks and things like that. Public drinking is not allowed, it hasn’t been allowed, and it’s not a good thing.”

But when it comes to the excess of trash in the city from takeout containers, Nicholson has tossed around the idea of limiting restaurants to the city’s zoning rule of takeout not exceeding 25% of a restaurant’s business.

“My observations, my concerns I would say on the takeout is moreso trash, and the lack of restaurant facilities to handle people that are eating all over the place.”

While no decisions have been made yet and the issues are not yet on the city council’s agenda. Nicholson said he brought the issues to the table for discussion, and that’s what it sparked.

“Up until now, we worked towards common solutions, and we still need to come up with common solutions to problems like this. Since (Tuesday), I’ve gotten a lot of phone calls, had a lot of discussions and I can say we will continue to have these discussions with the industry and work with them.”

In just a day, Nicholson’s comments quickly circulated the city and have rubbed some restaurant owners the wrong way.

“My jaw dropped wide open. I thought that it’s a kneejerk reaction to over the weekend that there was a lot of trash around.”

Geremie Callaghan owns Fluke Newport Wine Bar & Kitchen. She doesn’t have outdoor space and is relying 100% on takeout orders to stay afloat.

She disagrees that take out should be limited.

“This is the new normal. When indoor restaurants open on June 1st, curbside and delivery will still absolutely be a piece of our business.”

Callaghan said, while public drinking is a concern, the city could enact new policies and enforce it on the streets. But most importantly, they should work together.

“This is new to everyone. This is new to city manager Nicholson, to the city council, to all the restaurant owners. It’s time to get together, figure out what works, what doesn’t work, and how we can continue to move forward.”

Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce executive director, Erin Donovan-Boyle, sent ABC6 the following statement on the issue of limiting alcohol sales:

“While we understand that the City of Newport is looking for ways to address concerns relative to open containers in public, we believe the solution lies in ensuring the public follows the rules. Tying the hands of local restauranteurs whose business models have been severely impacted by COVID 19 and are relying on the revenue generated through alcohol and take out sales, is not the answer.  The restaurants have been compliant with all that has been asked of them throughout this crisis – it is the public that needs to comply with the local laws that prohibit open containers in public places.”

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