From Staff Reports
Two popular bills, which were backed by the Rhode Island Hospitality Association, cleared the Rhode Island House and Senate, passing on Feb. 10, 2022: the permanent institution of alcohol to-go with food orders and the continuation of outdoor dining without zoning revisions through 2023.
A movement to make alcohol to-go permanent in the state was introduced by Gov. Dan McKee in his 2022 budget proposal. Restaurants were given legal permission to sell alcohol to-go, such as craft cocktails or bottles of wine with takeout meals in April 2020, after venues were forced to close indoor dining in early pandemic precautions.
A popular option with takeout, the move to make it permanent is occurring across many U.S. states, not just Rhode Island. The law was first extended until Mar. 1, 2022. Through the latest bill, Senate Bill No. 2153, AN ACT RELATING TO ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES — MANUFACTURING AND WHOLESALE LICENSES — RETAIL LICENSES, venues are allowed to sell wine, beer and cocktails with takeout orders indefinitely.
Another provision passed to help restaurants retain business during the pandemic was the legislation allowing outdoor dining. Senate Bill No. 2134, AN ACT RELATING TO TOWNS AND CITIES — SMALL BUSINESSES — ZONING ORDINANCES originally imposed a one-year moratorium on the enforcement of municipal ordinances or zoning requirements that would normally penalize owners of food service establishments and bars for making modifications or alternations to their premises as a result of the pandemic, including outdoor dining.
The bill allows restaurants to continue outdoor dining programs without requiring local zoning approval until April 2023.
Both of these bills were passed with strong support in both Chambers and the support of Gov. McKee and Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos. Both bills will now go to the governor for signature.
“The RI Hospitality Association (RIHA) is pleased with the passing of our Alcohol to Go bill and our Outdoor Dining Expansion bill. As the industry continues to recover, facing incredible staff shortages, supply-chain issues, and customers still not comfortable dining inside, restaurants remain highly dependent on takeout sales and dedicated outdoor space,” said Dale J. Venturini, President and CEO, RI Hospitality Association.
“These laws provide a much-needed revenue stream to an industry already struggling with reduced profit margins. On behalf of Rhode Island’s entire hospitality community, we’d like to thank the legislature as well as Governor McKee for his advocacy and support.”