The Great Outdoors: How Rhode Island is Redefining Dining Post-Pandemic

Heather R. Singleton
Interim President/CEO, RI Hospitality Association

In a critical step forward, Rhode Island has again demonstrated its commitment to the vibrancy and resilience of our hospitality sector through the passage of RIHA’s proposed, permanent Outdoor Dining Bill. As the incoming Interim President/CEO of the Rhode Island Hospitality Association (RIHA), I celebrate this achievement with our state's restaurant owners, staff, and patrons.

The journey to this moment has been anything but simple. The challenges of the past several years have starkly highlighted the critical role that adaptability and innovation play in the survival and growth of Rhode Island’s hospitality industry. From staffing shortages and rising prices to the relentless hurdles posed by supply-chain disruptions, our businesses have faced an uphill battle to stay afloat. Amidst these trials, outdoor dining emerged not just as a temporary measure but as a vital component of the hospitality sector in Rhode Island’s ongoing recovery and sustainability.

The Outdoor Dining Bill's passage is a testament to the power of collaboration and shared vision. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to Governor McKee, the leadership of the House and Senate, the bill's sponsors—Senator Alana DiMario and Representative Carol McEntee—and our partners at the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns for their support. Their collective efforts have paved the way for a law that provides stability and dependability for restaurant owners across our state, ensuring that outdoor dining can continue to thrive as an essential revenue stream.

The significance of this legislation extends beyond the immediate financial benefits. It represents a cultural shift towards more dynamic and inclusive dining experiences, enabling residents and visitors alike to enjoy Rhode Island's unique culinary offerings in the beauty of our outdoor spaces. This law not only supports our economic recovery but also enhances the social fabric of our communities, fostering a sense of togetherness and joy that has been sorely missed.

As we look ahead, RIHA is committed to working alongside its members to navigate the opportunities and challenges that this new outdoor dining landscape presents. We will continue to advocate for policies that support the growth and resilience of our industry, provide resources and guidance to help businesses adapt to changing regulations, and celebrate the innovations that keep Rhode Island at the forefront of culinary and hospitality excellence.

The landscape of hospitality is ever-changing. With this legislative win, we are poised to emerge stronger, more adaptable, and more united than ever before. Let us embrace this moment as an opportunity to reimagine the future of dining in Rhode Island, creating spaces where community, culture, and cuisine come together in harmony.

As we usher in this new era of outdoor dining, it is crucial to recognize that this is just the beginning of a broader movement towards revitalizing Rhode Island's hospitality industry. The Outdoor Dining Bill not only safeguards a key revenue source but also opens the door to creative possibilities that can redefine the dining experience. We are embarking on a journey to make our state a destination where culinary innovation meets the charm of open-air enjoyment!