RI devotes $4.8 million to boost outdoor activities

An outdoor patio at The Guild brewery in Pawtucket is an example of a local business that has taken advantage of federal grant money in the state-supported “Take It Outside” program. Photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News

By Steve Klamkin WPRO News

Rhode Island is distributing $4.8 million in grants to 21 business entities, including seven cities and towns to support restaurants and other businesses with outdoor activities, expanding al fresco dining and sales that began at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

The intent of the “Take It Outside” initiative, said Governor Dan McKee, is “to help our local businesses thrive.”

“It’s something that is a win-win for everyone,” said Dale Venturini, President and CEO of the Rhode Island Hospitality Association. She said the program has been successful over the past year, and looks forward to expanding it.

“Our customers love it, the businesses love it, the Health Department loves it, everybody loves it, and it’s something that we want to continue and make it even better every year,” she said. Her group is one of the largest recipients of grant funding, up to $637,000.

The money, which comes from federal coronavirus grant funding, can be used to purchase items including chairs, tables, heat lamps and tents.

The Center For Southeast Asians, which will be getting up to $643,500, is the largest single recipient, because of its success in the past in distributing funds to a large number of businesses, said Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor.

Chambers of Commerce will be passing funds through to local businesses, and seven cities and towns will be distributing funds, including Cranston, East Providence, Pawtucket, Cumberland, North Providence, Smithfield and Warren, because they have the local contacts and infrastructure to distribute the funds, Pryor said. He added that the 21 entities can take administrative costs from the grants.

The state launched the “Take It Outside” initiative in October, 2020 with 41 grants totaling $3 million.