Rhody Hen Cafe wins expansion

Rhody Hen Cafe wins expansion

PAWTUCKET – The Rhody Hen Cafe, a small but wildly popular restaurant in a tightly populated neighborhood near McCoy Stadium, won permission last week for a permanent expansion of premises, with a new 10-foot by 20-foot outdoor area approved for customers to use.

Owner Tiffany Barrera was previously ordered to take down a temporary wooden structure after having it erected without permission too close to the property line at 350 Prospect St.

New District 4 Councilor Alexis Schuette asked the questions leading up to the council’s vote to approve the expansion, noting Rhody Hen’s ever-increasing popularity and emphasizing that it will be important going forward for the restaurant to work well with the neighborhood as lines get longer, including keeping aspects such as waiting customers and parking in mind. Schuette compared the restaurant to the compact eatery Kitchen in Providence, saying many people will wait a very long time for a good brunch.

“I like solving problems of success,” she said.

Attorney Michael Horan presented the proposal, saying Rhody Hen was looking for nine new tables, five in the new outdoor area and four in the area immediately adjacent to the building.

Abutting property owners Mario Rosario and Tereza Pereira expressed some concerns about parking in the neighborhood and safety related to where and how customers would be allowed to park, particularly related to the safety of those living in the area, but said ultimately that their questions were answered. Rosario said his letter to the council was meant to promote neighborhood conversation, saying he wished the owners would have a conversation with neighbors.

Barrera, who first opened in November of 2018, said she’s had about half of the 10 employees on the staff prior to the pandemic. If there is any covering of the outdoor area, it will only be a tent with metal poles and vinyl siding and no larger than the allowable space, she said. She confirmed that there will be no outdoor lighting.

Councilor Mark Wildenhain voted against the permanent expansion.

Barrera said many people are parking in legal spaces previously used for Memorial Hospital permit parking. She said double parking is happening behind the restaurant, but it’s not from her customers. Some customers are waiting 90 minutes to get in, she said, and the restaurant is working hard to move them in and out as fast as possible.

Pereira disputed that it is residents doing the double parking. She also disputed Barrera’s assertion that some people are parking at McCoy Stadium and then walking up, saying it’s a COVID-19 testing site where people aren’t allowed to park. Barrera said people were parking there prior to the pandemic.

Barrera doesn’t plan on adding the new tables right away, saying she expects to open the new space when the weather gets a bit warmer, in late March at the earliest.