Following a two-month closure wherein its owner said he simply did not feel comfortable risking employee or customer safety for a dollar, the Roast House Restaurant and Pub will reopen its Pawtucket and Blackstone locations for takeout orders starting this afternoon.
Owner Jorge Diogo closed the two restaurants – located on Farm Street in Blackstone and Columbus Avenue in Pawtucket – in April, saying he “couldn’t live with myself” were an employee or customer to become infected with COVID-19 because they ventured out of their homes to serve or eat at his establishment.
But now, Diogo says he feels comfortable that Rhode Island and Massachusetts are at a point where the curve
in COVID-19 cases is "going the other way" and "you're seeing a turn around, people are out."
"From what they're telling us, it's getting to the point where it's safer, that's my main concern," Diogo said on Tuesday. "We said a few weeks, we waited a little longer. Now that they're telling us different, we're following suit on both state's regulations and both state’s guidelines.”
Starting today, both Roast House locations will be reopening for takeout from noon to 8 p.m. and will continue to do so five days a week – Wednesday through Sunday – until interior seating is once again allowed.
Starting on May 18, Rhode Island will allow restaurants to begin limited outdoor dining, and Diogo said he will “probably take a look at that” at the Pawtucket Roast House, saying he spoke with the City Clerk’s Office in Pawtucket to discuss the guidelines the city will be using based on property size for outdoor seating.
Roast House employees will have their temperatures checked before coming to work and they’ll be logging who they’ve come into contact with. They’ll be wearing personal protective equipment such as face masks while at the restaurant and adhering to “safe distance measures” while on the premises, Diogo said.
These employees, he said, are ready and excited to return to both establishments.
“My employees are ready to come back to work, they want to come back to work,” he said. “Wait staff, bartenders have really felt the pain because they are reliant on tips. We haven’t had any issues as far as our staff. They’re happy and willing to come back, but we have to give limited hours to staff.”
As for the Roast House’s customers, who’ve grown fond of the restaurants’ classic cuisine including fish and chips, roast ham, and barbecue pork chops, Diogo said: “A lot of people have reached out, they can’t wait for us to open.”
“There’s a demand for takeout, we’ve just been very concerned with people’s safety, employee safety. Numerous people have reached out and they can’t wait for us to open,” he said.
“Overall, the restaurant industry’s getting hit hard with regulations more so than other businesses,” he said. “You’re constantly cleaning and sanitizing, they’re talking about throwaway menus, limited seating, groups of five at a table, and with other businesses, you can walk into a CVS, there’s no limitations, people are touching everything, you grab something, put it back, there’s nobody behind them sanitizing a product … The restaurant guidelines being set forth are very expensive to follow for people in the restaurant business to survive.”
Jonathan Bissonnette on Twitter @J_Bissonnette