Limited Outdoor Dining Allowed Starting May 18 with Guidelines

The announcement comes with a list of guidelines for both restaurant staff and the guests.

Patio season will look a lot different this spring and summer. This photo was taken at River Falls in Woonsocket in 2017. Photo by Angel Tucker.

Yesterday, Governor Gina Raimondo announced that limited on-premises outdoor dining in Rhode Island will be allowed starting on Monday, May 18. The announcement comes with a list of guidelines for both restaurant staff and guests. The Rhode Island Hospitality Association has been working diligently with the governor and team to come up with reasonable guidelines and policies to allow restaurants to reopen with limited outdoor dining, and with the Department of Business Regulation to determine ways to allow mixed drinks for takeout. Dale Venturini, President and CEO of the Rhode Island Hospitality Association, says we will begin to see a lot of movement this week from cities and towns after Raimondo’s restaurant announcement.

Venturini says cities and towns, including Warwick, Johnston and Woonsocket are already passing executive orders to allow spaces to be used. She says some cities and towns are thinking about closing partial streets to make it happen, though she cannot confirm yet. “Our state government is asking cities and towns to work with the restaurants,” Venturini says. “The governor says be creative, well people are being creative. No industry I know is more creative than this one.”

While the executive order has been passed to allow limited on-premises outdoor dining, it doesn’t mean all restaurants will choose to open for patio season. Not every restaurant has patio space, and some will choose to stick to takeout and delivery. “The restaurants are going to decide what to do based on their business model and how they are going to be able to handle it,” Venturini says. 

She says that customers should try to be patient and understanding during this time. “There are no answers because there’s no playbook. We can’t say this is what we did the last time we had a crisis like this,” Venturini says. “We’re making the playbook; we’re creating it as we go. We’re going to make some mistakes, we’re going to come up with some unbelievable options that we’ll be able to use in the future no matter what, whatever that new normal is. There are other things we’re going to find out just didn’t work.”

As for takeout cocktails, here are the rules on that: Restaurants are “permitted to sell, with takeout food orders, up to two bottles of wine, 144 ounces of beer or mixed beverages in original factory sealed containers, and 144 ounces of draft beer or seventy-two ounces of mixed beverages containing not more than nine ounces of distilled spirits in growlers, bottles or other containers sealed in such a way as to prevent re-opening without obvious evidence that the seal was removed or broken.” So far we’ve seen cocktails in growlers, sealed plastic containers and containers that are taped closed and dated.

Some people have gotten creative where they created a bottle where you can get four drinks out of it, almost the equivalent of a bottle of wine,” Venturini says.

Below is an overview of the on-premises outdoor dining guidelines from the Rhode Island Hospitality Association:

Capacity Restrictions
Restaurants must adhere to the following capacity restrictions.

  • Reservations only
  • Waiting rooms are not permitted. If there is a line, the business is responsible for ensuring that there is six feet between parties.
  • Maximum 20 tables per space
  • 8 feet between tables
  • Maximum party size of 5 people
  • Guests to wear masks when near server or when not eating
  • No bar seating
  • No buffets

Other guidelines:

  • Items must be disinfected between guests or single-use.
  • Restaurants may continue to use their regular dishware and menus as long as the following conditions are met:
    Menus must be one-time use or disinfected between each use.
  • Tables must be disinfected between each use.
  • Silverware must be disposable or pre-wrapped in a napkin.
  • Silverware and glasses cannot be pre-set.
  • Condiments must be single use only or disinfected between each customer.
  • Pens and payment stations must be frequently cleaned.

Customers’ Restrictions:
Customers will also have to participate in creating a safe environment.

  • Customers are required to wear masks. Customers may remove their mask to drink and eat, but must put the mask back on anytime an employee comes to the table.
  • Restaurants must pre-screen customers for COVID-19 symptoms. The restaurant will need to keep of log of this information for thirty days. More guidance on this coming soon.
  • Customers must provide their name and contact information to assist in contact tracing.
  • Customers may walk through the restaurant to get to outdoor seating or to use the restroom.
  • Valet services are prohibited.


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