Grants Allow Local Hotels to Offer Workspace

Guest rooms have been offered to individuals working remotely at the Atlantic Beach Hotel.

Guest rooms have been offered to individuals working remotely at the Atlantic Beach Hotel.

Your office shuts down during the pandemic. Your storefront is shuttered until further notice. Employees are told to work from home. Some are unable to do that, for various reasons, such as little workspace, family disturbances, the lack of Wi-Fi or they can’t shoulder the added expense.

But have heart. Or, in the case of two hotels on Aquidneck Island, have “HArT.”

The Atlantic Beach Hotel and the Quality Inn, both in Middletown, received $205,000 and $350,000, respectively, in HArT (Hospitality Arts and Tourism) relief awards last month to help businesses, their employees, students and other individuals work remotely in the hotel rooms left empty due to the pandemic.

The Atlantic Beach Hotel is using the money to offer discount packages for remote workers and students, and to make technology investments in conference rooms for remote meetings, virtual events and safe workspaces. The Quality Inn is using the grant to develop a “workcation” hotel program for customers working remotely and to make technology and equipment upgrades.

Rhode Island Commerce announced the awarding of grants in December, which consisted of $4.7 million to 62 arts and tourism organizations for engagement, service and resiliency activities. The HArT program has also awarded 40 organizations direct support grants totaling $8 million, with many going to Newport, Middletown and Jamestown. Combined with the first round of awards, the HArT program has given $14.1 million to 95 organizations.

The program aims to prevent the long-term closure of arts, culture, hospitality and tourism businesses and institutions while building resiliency, workforce support and community engagement. It is also designed to spur economic activity, create safe gathering spaces, and provide accessible artistic and tourist-friendly opportunities.

“The state arts council is proud to partner with commerce in helping arts and culture organizations through the very real challenges they face during this pandemic,” said Randall Rosenbaum, executive director of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. “The arts were the first sector affected by the onset of COVID-19, and the economic losses the arts community has experienced have been staggering.”

A local family has already opened its rooms to a half-dozen participants, who use them to work remotely free of charge.

“Over the course of the summer while watching the news, I learned how major hotel chains were finding creative ways to adapt as COVID completely decimated the tourism industry,” said Stathi Kyriakides, whose family owns the Atlantic Beach Hotel. “I felt inspired by this and began searching for ways in which I could help the community. Knowing that the pandemic has closed many offices and left a lot of people without an adequate working space, I decided that converting our guest rooms into offices would be a big help to remote workers. The grant really allowed us to expand our efforts and make this all possible.”

Originally, he had planned to open the rooms through March, but now plans to extend the program through spring.

The Kyriakides family has been in the hospitality industry through many ups and down, and has helped local organizations before by providing event space, guest rooms and fundraisers. But not quite like this.

“There has never been such a demand for remote work before,” Kyriakides said. “It’s always rewarding to get involved in the community, especially during these unprecedented times.”

He estimated that there have been at least 15 individuals or businesses participating, with more inquiries daily. “It’s growing all the time,” he said.