As the pandemic continues to impact the hospitality industry, Rhode Island’s officials are working to boost businesses. With the General Assembly’s decision to extend the “take it …
As the pandemic continues to impact the hospitality industry, Rhode Island’s officials are working to boost businesses. With the General Assembly’s decision to extend the “take it outside” effort and make take-out drinks permanent, Senator Jack Reed is now working to add up to $48 billion to the restaurant revitalization fund.
“It’s great for the senators and elected officials to take an interest and that all of us who have worked so hard are given help,” said Sanjiv Dhar, owner of Garden City’s Chaska.
Dhar has been president and CEO of India House, Inc. for the past 32 years and operates four Indian restaurants in Rhode Island.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Applied Sciences in hospitality administration/ management and a master’s degree in the same field from Johnson and Wales University.
His restaurant, Chaska, opened right before the pandemic.
Dhar said Reed’s proposed funding could help Chaska sustain sales, ensure that they can keep employees and spend money on marketing to draw customers in. He said the restaurant is seeing an increase in people dining in due to people being vaccinated and having the confidence to meet others in public. For Chaska, the omicron variant has been proven less problematic than the Delta variant, but the restaurant is now watching prices for products soar.
“You’re constantly struggling to keep prices in check,” Dhar said, mentioning that owning a restaurant requires you to watch prices like a hawk. “It’s not in our control, unfortunately.”
Dhar said the pandemic has made restaurants think about survival and making sure they use resources properly so they are prepared for future obstacles.
According to Reed’s Feb. 22 announcement, the federal aid would assist local restaurants so they can rehire/retain their current staff and cover pandemic-related losses as well as “payroll, mortgage and rent payments, business debt service, utilities, maintenance, outdoor seating, business supplies, food and beverage costs, certain supplier costs and operating expenses.”
This would be a second round of funding for restaurants, after Reed created the program last spring and worked to deliver $28.6 billion in federal funding (under the American Rescue Plan Act) to provide financial support to restaurants nationwide struggling with the pandemic’s impacts.
“Rhode Island’s restaurants, bars and eateries are economic force multipliers that create jobs, add vibrancy to neighborhoods, and serve as cornerstones of our communities. Demand for Restaurant
Revitalization Fund assistance drastically outpaced the $28.6 billion in approved federal funding, so I am working on a bipartisan basis to deliver additional aid,” said Reed. “Even as the pandemic eases, restaurateurs are being challenged in new ways and this federal funding will save jobs, strengthen Main Streets across the country, and offer a respite from inflation and higher food costs.”
A total of 446 Rhode Island restaurant operators received over $106 million in restaurant revitalization funds. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, the average restaurant relief fund grant in Rhode Island was $283,642. More than 1,500 Rhode Island RRF applications were submitted to SBA but went unfunded.
“He’s [Reed’s] been a pioneer and champion of the restaurant industry,” Dhar said. Chaska also participated in other restaurant efforts including takeout drinks. The Rhode Island General Assembly made this program permanent on Feb. 10 to boost the state’s restaurant industry. Prior to the bill’s passage, the to-go liquor extension would expire March 1.
“I’m a big supporter of that; take out drinks are a huge thing for the restaurants,” said Dhar, whose restaurant has spent a lot of time and effort in creating craft cocktails.
According to the General Assembly, Class B liquor license holders can “sell up to two 750 ml bottles of wine, 72 ounces of a mixedwine drinks, 144 ounces of beer, and mixed drinks with no more than nine ounces of distilled spirits with take-out orders.”
Dhar said it’s a win-win for the restaurant and customer. Not only does it add cash flow for the business, but customers are receiving craft cocktails that they don’t have to make at home.
“Our restaurant industry includes so many treasured small businesses that make Rhode Island the special place that is. They need every available tool to survive the pandemic. Take-out drinks have helped them stay afloat, bring in a little more revenue, and keep paying their employees and supporting our economy. Restaurants and consumers have shown that takeout drinks can be handled very responsibly, so we have every reason to make them a permanent feature of our state’s restaurant scene,” said Senate President Pro Tempore
Hanna M. Gallo, who sponsored the bill along with Representative Jacquelyn Baginski.
The assembly approved a second bill, which will allow restaurants’ to continue outdoor dining until April 1, 2023.
“A lot of help has been given,” Dhar said. “Officials are on top of their game. ”
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