NP won’t force restaurants to trade off indoor capacity

NP won’t force restaurants to trade off indoor capacity

NORTH PROVIDENCE – When indoor dining does begin making a comeback in North Providence, restaurant owners won’t be required to make corresponding moves to slash their capacity outside, according to new rules now in place.

Town Council President Dino Autiello said state officials wanted towns to require that outdoor capacity be decreased as indoor capacity is relaxed, but “we wanted to give them a shot of making a little money.”

As long as zoning signs off on everything, he said, restaurant owners will be able to keep all of the outdoor seating they’ve added in this first phase of Gov. Gina Raimondo’s reopening plan for the state.

“They’re the backbone of our town,” he said. “Let them try and make up a little revenue.”

Autiello said he thinks restaurant owners fared OK over the first week of outdoor dining being allowed, and expects things will improve as the weather gets warmer.

Autiello said he understands that the town needs to be extra cautious due to the proximity of so many residential areas to restaurants and bars, and police are doing a good job monitoring the situation so far.

The town emergency ordinance allowing widespread outdoor dining went into effect May 18 and runs through Aug. 31, unless it’s changed or extended. The allowance to maintain outdoor seating levels even as indoor seating returns in the next phases of the state’s reopening will run through that date, said Autiello.

Councilor Stefano Famiglietti, head of the ordinance committee that formulated the new rules, said this is an opportunity for restaurant owners who were basically closed for two months to have the opportunity to recoup some of their losses, even if a certain percentage of the inside is allowed to be used again.

This doesn’t mean that cars will be flooding the neighborhoods, said Famiglietti, as restaurant owners still need to meet zoning requirements demanding one parking spot for every three people.

“You still have to meet that requirement,” he said.

Famiglietti said he expects the measure to last through the summer unless there are any major issues.

“We can always revisit it if there are,” he said.