|STATE HOUSE – After a request of Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi and Rep. Kathleen A. Fogarty, the Department of Transportation is accepting applications from restaurants to allow them to use sidewalks on state roads outside their establishments for outdoor dining space so they can better serve customers while complying with new social distance requirements.|
“Our goal is to allow this for a short term to provide our business community the opportunity to catch up on some of the lost opportunities they have suffered over these last seven weeks, and calm some fears over the uncertainty of the future,” said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett). “While we realize this will not make any of our entrepreneurs whole, we do know that every creative opportunity we can provide offers hope for them to stay afloat.”
Restaurants that wish to submit an application can find it on the front page of DOT’s website, dot.ri.gov. Approved applicants must also get local approval and comply with certain conditions, which include maintaining pedestrian rights of way that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The approval will expire when the new limits on indoor restaurant dining put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are lifted.
The legislators had made the request for specific roads in their district on behalf of the businesses there, and urged the DOT to adopt a statewide policy on all low-speed, two-lane roads.
The original request also sought to allow the use of on-street parking spaces as well, for retail establishments as well as restaurants. While DOT’s application allows only restaurants to use sidewalk space, it does also allow restaurants to apply for extra on-street parking in areas where it is not normally allowed, if they are already using their own parking lots for outdoor dining. The representatives hope the application could be expanded to retail establishments if possible later in the reopening plan to help those businesses recoup some of their losses as well.
“We recognize that this is an extraordinary request, but this is an extraordinary time. We are very grateful to the DOT’s willingness to respond with flexibility, because helping local businesses comply with new space requirements will help them stay afloat during a very challenging time. Virtually every local business needs help right now. Efforts like this will make a difference to what our Main Streets look like on the other side of this,” said Representative Fogarty (D-Dist. 35, South Kingstown).