NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — A move to help local restaurants freely use available town venues for events, along with approval of a longtime project for a popular restaurant to serve beer and wine, have been approved by the Town Council in Narragansett.
The council on July 20 gave permission for town restaurants to use town locations such as the Towers, Kinney Bungalow and the North Beach Clubhouse at no cost in July and August for their events of up to 25 to 30 guests.
Like many other changes this year, COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings were the impetus for the unique arrangement.
Peg Fredette, manager of the Narragansett Chamber of Commerce, said the issue of offering the town spaces surfaced when the state was still in Phase 2 of reopening its businesses, and occupancy was still severely restricted. Fredette emphasized that the venues are only open to Narragansett restaurants and that the goal was to give them extra space, if they need it.
“We have businesses in town that suddenly had to be very creative, or they were stuck, they couldn’t go out into their driveways,” she said. “At the same time, we had places like the Towers and Kinney Bungalow with all kinds of cancellations.”
The solution seemed creative – a way to “make wine out of lemons,” Fredette said. “The bottom line is it was an attempt to help, to try to do something.”
Council member Jill Lawler proposed the idea and worked with town officials and the Chamber of Commerce to compile a list of local businesses to notify about it and include in a June 9 brainstorming session on Zoom.
“We have these empty buildings, the Kinney Bungalow, the Towers, North Beach Clubhouse. They’re sitting empty because events have been canceled,” Lawler said.
Lawler said initial interest was low, but that the Coast Guard House called July 10 to express a desire to take advantage of it.
“This is one more thing we can do for our small businesses to give them a helping hand right now,” she said.
The Coast Guard House had requested use of the Towers two nights per week in July and August, to be called “Dinner at 35 Ocean by Coast Guard House.”
Coast Guard House manager and co-owner Bob Leonard said he hoped to try doing a themed dinner once or twice per week.
“Of course the Towers takes precedence,” he said. “If it’s not available a certain day, it’s not available.”
The Towers is supported by the nonprofit Friends of the Towers and governed by the Towers Committee. Event coordinator Donna DiCicco said she is taking bookings for small weddings and similar events. She asked the council for discretion in scheduling when a restaurant would be able to use the space, and the council complied.
“I just don’t want our hands tied so that when we do get a booking, we can’t book it,” she said.
The council continued its business-friendly activity on Monday, when it unanimously approved a license for Monahan’s Clam Shack to sell beer and wine at its 190 Ocean Ave. location.
Attorney Matthew Landry said Monahan’s had been working to get approval to sell beer and wine since 2014, and in June owner and president Matthew Combs received Zoning Board approval for a special use permit to do so.
Among conditions required by the Zoning Board are that the beer and wine be served to dine-in guests only, that it be served in non-glass containers and that it is not allowed to leave the outdoor facilities.
“We’re really excited for this opportunity,” Combs said.
Twelve to 14 employees, including Combs and some of his family members who operate the restaurant with him, have been certified with TIPS, a national certification and skill-based training program that is designed to prevent intoxication, underage drinking and drunk driving.
Beer and wine is not available for takeout or “to go,” according to the application. Alcohol can’t be ordered at the food window.
Patrons would order their food first, and then a wait staff member with a wireless tablet would take any alcoholic orders. The drinks would be delivered with the food, Combs said.
“We’re going to have signs that say ‘No alcohol beyond this point,’” he said. “Also, the waitress station will be between the entrance and the exit, so we’ll always have someone watching.”
The outdoor patio seating area will be enclosed with a tempered glass barrier, and the outside and indoor seating will be reconfigured as well.
Combs also assured the council that Monahan’s will not allow customers to buy alcohol to go, even though Gov. Gina Raimondo issued a COVID-19 executive order allowing restaurants to do so.
Resident Al Alba said he had advocated for the move many years ago.
“To me this is so, so overdue. Businesses are struggling, they only have a short window of opportunity to make any income. They help area kids by hiring them. It’s a win-win situation,” he said.