NEWPORT In the midst of state-mandated dine-in service shut-downs, management at La Forge Casino Restaurant on Bellevue Avenue found a silver lining.
When Gov. Gina Raimondo announced in mid-March that Rhode Island eateries would have to close their doors to diners and could only offer take-out (in light of coronavirus concerns), La Forge General Manager Ashley Lemire thought “let’s paint the walls while we’re at it.”
But the renovations didn’t stop there. Customers will walk in to find the original, green carpet gone and a wood floor in its place. To the right of the entrance, the bar area’s been spiffed up: there’s a fresh Mahogoney bar and new light fixtures; the original maroon walls have been replaced with a fresh coat of white paint.
A 19th-century marble, tiled floor also adorns the bar room, now; it was discovered after the flooring that had been covering it was torn away. Katelyn McSherry, marketing director for La Forge, credited Joe Gnazzo with that renovation. Contractors with Argueta Home Improvement, LLC, were also credited with the restaurant’s renovations.
Lemire met with The Daily News on Monday, the first day Rhode Island restaurants were allowed to welcome back diners, albeit with extreme restrictions. Outdoor seating only, for example; reservations are required and there are social distancing and cleanliness mandates.
Monday was a big day for La Forge, not only because customers were allowed to dine on the restaurant premises for the first time in about two months, but also because renovations were largely finished.
Renovations were originally planned for the end of the year, after an anticipated, wildly successful summer season, Lemire said. “But this fell in our lap…we absolutely grabbed this opportunity.”
Asked the cost of renovations, McSherry said in an email that management stated they had spent over $500,000 in restorations and renovations to the restaurant since it was purchased in 2017. The International Tennis Hall of Fame owns the building; 1899 LLC owns the restaurant.
On Monday, Lemire pointed to the outdoor dining areas, one area being the International Tennis Hall of Fame event space, which is new territory for the restaurant. “The Tennis Hall of Fame has been so kind,” Lemire said. Thanks to the additional, outdoor space offered by the International Tennis Hall of Fame, the restaurant can seat approximately 58 people outside, Lemire said.
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