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Downtown Hospitality Group Statement Regarding RI "Pause"

By Bradly J. VanDerStad


On Thursday, Governor Raimondo took the stage during her weekly press conference to announce more COVID-19 restrictions due to the rising number of cases in the state. While the Downtown Hospitality Group sees and understands the need for drastic action, we ask that the governor sees restaurants as part of the solution.


“As business owners we have done our best to follow state guidelines to ensure the safety of our employees and guests during the COVID-19 crisis,” says Dave Bertolini, Operating Partner at Providence Coal Fired Pizza. “The Governor herself has stated that Rhode Island business owners have done an amazing job following these guidelines. We as restaurant owners offer a structured environment where people can go and enjoy a night out.”


In Thursday’s press conference, Governor Raimondo limited in-person dining to 33% of capacity and restricted to one household per reservation; notice, however, that she depends on restaurants to screen reservation calls to check for the one-household requirement. Restaurants in Providence have been trusted through the duration of the pandemic to be the enforcers of the governor’s policies and are honored to continue to be.


Anthony Santurri, Owner of Free Play Bar Arcade, describes his method for holding patrons accountable: “Leading now requires full on non-stop diligence when it comes to the COVID safety guidelines. Accept no excuses and be respectful but firm to ensure the highest level of compliance.”


“My personal feeling is that we are encouraging more congregating by sending everyone home rather than keeping them in a controlled environment,” says Ruth Ferrazzano, Owner of Murphy’s Providence. Small business owners never asked to be the mask police, and yet, they have proven to be the most effective promoters of the guideline. Restaurant owners will continue to adapt to serve customers and keep them and staff safe.


Jane Jacobs, 20th century urbanist, called for “eyes on the street” to deter crime; let us be the “eyes in the restaurants.” Let us set the social norm of compliance with masking and social distancing guidelines- we can save small business and lives in the same stride.

Bradly J. VanDerStad is the President of the Downtown Hospitality Group. The DHG is a grassroots organization of restaurants and other businesses in Providence with the mission to build productive partnerships, amplify community voices, and advocate for a better business experience in Providence. Learn more at dhgpvd.com.

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