Chairs McEntee and DiMario’s outdoor dining bill passes General Assembly

 

            STATE HOUSE – Legislation (2024-H 7064A, 2024-S 2028A) sponsored by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee and Sen. Alana M. DiMario that establishes standards for municipalities to regulate outdoor dining was approved by the General Assembly today.

            Representative McEntee, chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee, and Senator DiMario, chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee, have introduced several new laws that allowed outdoor dining since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

            “In the dark days of the pandemic, expansion of outdoor dining across the state proved to be a bright spot that brought our communities back together on those warm summer nights to enjoy one of Rhode Island’s finest assets – our culinary and hospitality community.  And make no mistake about it, outdoor dining allowed countless restaurants and eateries to withstand and survive the struggles and uncertainties that COVID-19 brought to our state.  Without outdoor dining, our diverse and world-renowned restaurant scene would look far different today and the state would have missed out on the millions of tax dollars that our tourism and hospitality industries generate yearly.  We must look at the economic facts and listen to the voices of our residents and visitors alike which are clearly stating, it’s time to make this beloved practice permanent so that everyone can continue to enjoy outdoor dining in the Ocean State.  Food, community and beautiful views, outdoor dining in the Ocean State is something we can’t lose.” said Representative McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett).

            “The success of the Take It Outside program was apparent from the very beginning and that success will continue for our communities and small businesses by making outdoor dining permanent in Rhode Island.  Outdoor dining allowed so many of our beloved restaurants to stay open during the economic uncertainties we have faced over the past few years and it brought our communities back together after facing a terrifying public health crisis.  I know I am looking forward to the warmer months when I can go outside and share a wonderful meal with my family and friends and that’s possible because of this bill,” said Senator DiMario (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown, New Shoreham).

            The bill would allow municipalities to adopt ordinances that limit outdoor dining on public property; that limit capacity of outdoor dining; or that require barriers for outdoor dining areas that border parking lots or roadways.

            The legislation would not allow municipalities to pass ordinances that prohibit outdoor dining; that limit the time of year when outdoor dining may be offered; that restrict the hours of outdoor dining operations inconsistent with the food service establishment's existing licensure; or that require new parking capacity standards on a food service establishment for an outdoor dining area.

            The legislation now heads to the governor’s desk for consideration.

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