Dining out: City restaurants start welcoming back patrons for outdoor service

The Cranston Herald ·

The state began allowing restaurants, cafés and other culinary establishments to offer limited outdoor dining services on Monday, and Mayor Allan Fung has signed a supplementary executive order allowing establishments in the city to receive a temporary license for outdoor food and alcohol service at no additional cost.

As of Tuesday, the mayor said the city had received 23 applications for the temporary licenses. The process, he said, is designed to be simple, requiring businesses in good standing to complete a form requiring their compliance with social distancing and safety rules before picking up the license at City Hall.

“I’ve gotten some positive feedback from the restaurants,” he said. “A combination of the bigger [restaurants] and the smaller ones are taking advantage of [the outdoor dining allowance] to the best extent they can.”

A number of Cranston establishments began welcoming customers back for an outdoor meal Monday, but with a range of restrictions in place – including appointment-only seating, 8 feet or barriers between tables, parties limited to five people, and masks required when not eating.

The governor has said the second phase of the state’s reopening plan will not proceed until after Memorial Day, and it remains unclear when indoor dining service might return.

In light of the uncertainty, Fung said he is also considering a plan to “close certain streets, maybe like one night a week during the summer months, if we’re still going to be in this process.” Doing so would be aimed at allowing restaurants in certain parts of the city to expand their outdoor dining space, particularly those without large parking areas or other outdoor spaces that allow for easy expansion.

The mayor said he is focused on “natural [locations] where a lot of restaurants are,” such as Cranston Street, Pawtuxet Village and Rolfe Square. Discussions with restaurant owners are preliminary, he said, and broad interest would be needed for the plan to move forward.

“Unless we get the critical mass of the restaurants, I just can’t close the streets,” he said.

The mayor also noted a range of logistical concerns will need to be addressed. In Pawtuxet Village, for example, the closure of even a portion of Broad Street would potentially exacerbate existing parking issues, requiring some alternative solution.

“We’d have to find a location that would be willing to let some of those people park … There’s a lot of moving pieces, and it’s got to be done right,” he said.

He added: “Were trying to think of innovative, creative ways to get things going.”

Elsewhere, Fung recently allowed for the city’s walking tracks and tennis courts to reopen. Other recreational facilities remain closed, however, and the mayor said he will based decisions moving forward on guidance from the state and discussions with Parks and Recreation Director Tony Liberatore.

“A lot’s going to depend on the guidance the governor issues this week,” he said.