Gov. Baker and Lt. Gov. Polito today announced plans for letting restaurants and hotels re-open, but said exactly when that can happen will depend on Covid-19 numbers next week.
Polito said the next step, part of phase 2 of the state's re-opening plan, would start with letting restaurants offer outdoor seating, both as a way to ease into the new normal of restricted dining and to gauge the public-health implications (new restaurant guidelines).
Tables would have to be six feet apart and parties could not have more than six people, she said.
Polito said that similar restrictions would apply to indoor dining areas once they're allowed to re-open, which would come at some later date; exactly when would, again, depend on Covid-19 data.. She said that bar seating will be banned, and that restaurants will be allowed to re-purpose bar space for tables.
Diners will have to wear masks into restaurants or while moving about a restaurant, but will be allowed to remove them while sitting at their table, Polito said.
Polito said diners will notice other, smaller changes: Tables will no longer have bottles or jars of condiments on the table or be pre-set with silverware. Also, restaurants should encourage diners to order in advance online to help reduce contact between workers and patrons.
She added that the administration is currently working with the legislature to make it easier for restaurants that currently only have liquor licenses for indoor use to gain approval to offer drinks outdoors as well.
In Boston, Mayor Walsh has said he was waiting for today's announcement to launch his own proposal to expand sidewalks into streets to give Boston restaurants more space to offer outdoor dining.
Restaurant owners will also have to comply with a host of new cleaning and sanitizing regulations and could face closure should one of their workers test positive for Covid-19 for even more intensive cleaning. Owners are also supposed to let workers go home if they feel ill.
Hotels, B&B's and the like will be allowed to begin offering room to "non-essential" guests - but with the proviso they tell out-of-state guests they have to self quarantine for 14 days. Polito, however, said it will be up to guests to do that; the state won't enforce that.
Hotels will be urged to leave rooms vacant for 24 hours between guests to allow for deep cleaning; even longer if a guest tests positive for Covid-19.
She added that hotels will have to keep their ballrooms and conference rooms shut.