Christopher Dodge House

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“Hospitality industry faces a long road back”

A woman wearing a yellow plaid top standing next to a beautiful flower box attached to a black iron railing.

Monica Hopton outside the Christopher Dodge House bed and breakfast in Providence. [The Providence Journal / Kris Craig]

By Patrick Anderson
Journal Staff Writer

Posted Sep 4, 2020 at 10:00 AM
Updated Sep 4, 2020 at 10:21 AM

This story is part of a series of interviews with everyday Rhode Islanders about the summer of 2020.

The hallways and dining room of the Christopher Dodge House bed and breakfast have been quieter than normal due to COVID-19, but downstairs there’s still jazz.

This summer the 14-room inn on Providence’s Smith Hill booked a jazz quartet, slimmed down to a duo for social distancing, to provide guests a rare and calming amenity during the pandemic.

“They just play this lovely music, and we offer guests a beverage and either a light snack or strawberry shortcake,” Monica Hopton, the Smith Hill inn’s co-owner, said. “It’s been a relief and lets us have our own event.”

But Miles Davis tunes can only take you so far.

As is the case for the rest of the Providence hospitality industry, COVID-19 has not been kind to the Dodge House and other B&Bs in the city.

“We got hit hard,” Hopton said. “Everything people were coming into town for got canceled.”

March, when the coronavirus arrived in Rhode Island, is normally the start of the busy season for Providence lodgings, which lasts into November. But instead of being full, the Dodge House had to close during the spring’s near-lockdown period. Visitors to the city are returning slowly.

It’s not quite the same as it used to be. Guests have to sign up for breakfast slots to make sure there aren’t too many people congregating in the dining room at the same time, and they have to sign up for one of the two nightly jazz sessions.

Hopton said the Dodge House is now about a quarter full, but that’s an improvement from a month ago.

The good news: the phone rang twice with potential guests calling about reservations while Hopton was on the other line with a reporter.

“People are more relaxed now, and it is like we have figured out social distancing,” she said. “They don’t freak out if you step back from them to maintain space.”

The return of some college students, and their visiting families, has provided a little boost this fall. But without conventions, shows, sports and other events, the city’s hotels, inns and restaurants are in a tough spot.

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