By Dale Venturini, President & CEO, Rhode Island Hospitality Association
What has realistically only been five months, give or take, since our industry was turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic has truly felt like an eternity. From the top down, every aspect of how our restaurants and hotels operate and service the community has been altered in one way or another. From businesses closing altogether, to others adopting new practices designed to keep customers and staff safe, the hospitality industry looks a lot different than it did at the same time last year.
We have, however, made some very positive strides recently, from the phased reopening of indoor dining, to the extension of Gov. Gina M. Raimondo’s executive order allowing the delivery of alcoholic beverages, we have seen a great level of cooperation across the board. To continue moving ahead, all pieces of the puzzle must fit and work together: government, businesses and consumers.
At the Rhode Island Hospitality Association, we work closely with our members, the governor’s office, the various Rhode Island tourism and visitor’s councils, and a host of additional government entities to guarantee that our industry’s voice is heard and our concerns are addressed with direct input from the constituents these issues affect most. Though at times certain topics lead to a great deal of deliberation, keeping the lines of communication open is imperative to ensuring that the best interest of our industry, its workers and the consumers who enjoy the services that we provide are always kept top of mind.
Our advocacy efforts go far beyond what you hear in the news; our advocacy of the causes and initiatives that we believe in coincide with a relentless, tireless pursuit to advance our industry through our Culture of Community, a set of values made up of the “Eight C’s” – Cooperation, Collaboration, Communication, Connection, Curiosity, Compassion, Civility and Camaraderie. With these values serving as our guiding principles, we are able to accomplish great things.
It is not, however, solely the responsibility of our representatives in office and our industry’s business owners to hash everything out while implementing new procedures and practices; some of the onus is on consumers to cooperate and do their part to help these processes go smoothly. Just recently, we saw that Brickley’s Ice Cream, a summer community staple in southern Rhode Island, made the tough decision to close for the remainder of the season due to the poor, and in some instances, irreprehensible behavior of customers refusing to follow guidelines based on state mandates.
What we all have to realize is that nobody is being singled out by these guidelines, just as nobody is above the law. It is the responsibility of every resident in this state, and frankly across the country, to prioritize following public health guidelines to keep friends, family and neighbors safe and healthy. There is no reason that staff should be accosted for asking customers to wear their masks or to practice social distancing.
Right now, we are all in the same boat, treading the same water. With no realistic end in sight to the COVID-19 pandemic at this point, all we can do is stay positive and work together to make the best of the situation while following the guidance of our public health officials. It may be a silly expression, but I often hear people say that “teamwork makes the dream work.” Right now, we are all dreaming of better days, so let’s come together to do what we can to ensure things turn around sooner rather than later.