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The Washington Bridge was a key topic of discussion at Smith Hill, where members of the House Committee on Small Business listened to testimony from affected business owners. Bob Burke, owner of the popular French restaurant Pot au Feu in Providence, reported a significant decline in sales, ranging from 30% to 50% on what used to be busy Friday nights. He attributed this decrease to customers’ reluctance to sit in traffic in order to dine out.

As a result of the drop in sales, Burke has had to reduce his employees’ work hours. He shared an example of one server who lives in Coventry and, due to the unpredictable traffic conditions, allocates two hours to travel to Providence on Fridays. These challenges have had a direct impact on the restaurant’s operations and highlight the need for improved infrastructure and transportation solutions in the area.

In response to these concerns, Rhode Island’s congressional delegation has called on the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) to increase its efforts to assist the state. In a letter sent to the SBA, they pointed out that only 10% of loan applications submitted so far have been approved. They also requested an update on the status of the remaining loan applications and inquired about the expected approval timeline.

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