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In wake of mask mandate, R.I. hospitality industry reminds people: Please be kind

The popular campaign from the summer has been revamped in light of new COVID rules

The Rhode Island Hospitality Association has revamped its "Be Kind" campaign to remind customers about COVID guidelines.Rhode Island Hospitality Association

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The association representing hotels, restaurants, and the tourism industry in Rhode Island has re-launched its “Please Be Kind” campaign in response to the return of a mask mandate.

The Rhode Island Hospitality Association got national attention for its first “Please Be Kind” campaign in the summer, when staffing shortages were leading to customers taking out their frustrations on workers. The association created signs that restaurants could post at their entrances asking customers to be patient and understanding. It was a more polite way of saying “no shoes, no shirt, no service — and also no jerks.”

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Now, the campaign is being retooled to highlight a new indoor mask mandate issued by Governor Dan McKee.

“It’s important to just remind people that it’s not the individual restaurant that’s making these rules,” said Sarah Bratko, the lobbyist for the organization. “They’re doing what they have to do. It’s a nice little reminder as they go into the holiday season — remember to be kind.”

The new sign that restaurants can post says: “Staff is working hard to comply with state COVID guidelines. We ask that you please be kind and patient with the staff that is working.”

Just like when the association first launched the campaign, it’s also working to highlight mental health resources that are available to staff.

The mask mandate went into effect last week. Indoor venues with a capacity of above 250 people will have to require masks of customers and staff; those below 250 will have the option to check for proof of vaccination.

Bratko said there is no hard data on how restaurants were enforcing the rules, but anecdotally, it appears most places are opting to just require masks across the board, rather than dedicate a staff member to checking vaccine cards. It’s not a HIPAA violation to ask people their vaccine status, but some apparently think it is, and requiring masks nips that conversation in the bud.

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It’s hard to say how the new rules have played out so far, Bratko said. It seems that some customers, and even some businesses, didn’t even know about it. The new rules rolled out during a week when people’s minds are on other things.

Bratko said restaurants these days are busy, which is good, but that doesn’t mean things are easy. The hospitality industry is facing higher costs, supply chain issues, and a constantly shifting pandemic terrain.

“There’s a lot going on behind the scenes that make it a very very challenging time to do business,” Bratko said.


Brian Amaral can be reached at brian.amaral@globe.com. Follow him @bamaral44.