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Restaurants could soon be allowed to re-open dining areas, but only outdoors at first

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.

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Comments

Bring the bug spray and remember to duck when the seagulls and pigeons poop. Also be kind to those furry little rats that have been on a diet since the dumpsters are empty.

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Voting closed 6

The specifics look reasonable (to this non-expert) and issuing the guidelines well in advance so restaurants can start on any necessary construction should help: you don't know yet when you can reopen, but you do know useful things like the maximum number of customers per table.

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Voting closed 11

...and a person that will do Olive Garden in a minute, I can say that I just want the damn things open.

Here's my problem, having talked to a few owners over the years. Please note...IANAP (I Am Not A Pro), just an observer, so this is more of a question than an observation...if most restaurants have a small margin and can go belly up in the good times, what will happen now? It seems to me that these partial openings, although laudable, may just be a recipe for the slower strangulation of the establishment.

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Voting closed 15

Might not be if the volume of take-out orders stays high and people order by phone instead of using MoneyGrubHub or the like.

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Voting closed 7

Fixed costs are so high that even if they make it through the summer, it's still a disaster in fall. Some places will be fine of course, but I'd guess it's more based on real estate than 'merit'.

For example here in Roslindale, the owner of Delfino owns their building (or a related company, unclear) and Birch Street doesn't. Guess who has a worse situation given that their food and wage costs are probably pretty much the same?

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Voting closed 7

It's estimated that 40% of restaurants won't make it through this. Between taking an amazing hard hit over the past three months, the amount of dining going forward are going to be a fraction of what they used to expect. Take-out and delivery can't sustain most restaurants that weren't designed around that model originally.

It's really tragic. Restaurants are a huge part of the "culture" that makes cities attractive in the first place.

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Voting closed 14

Me, too!
I've been to both real restaurants AND Olive Garden!
.
Seriously, though...
I actually like Olive Garden food once in a while. It's just unfortunate that the service philosophy (at least locally) is so bad it discourages going there (and their food is much better suited to eat-in than takeout)
They have this weird mindset (in normal times) that it's better to have closed sections of the restaurant and people waiting in the lobby or outside, looking like there's great demand, rather than seating them and selling them drinks & appetizers while they wait.
The weird thing is that I have no idea whether that will kill them as reopening progresses or if it will leave them best positioned, being most experienced at partial-occupancy operations.

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Voting closed 4

Keeping one part of the dining room closed is standard practice when you don't have enough staff for your full occupancy. The theory is that it's better to make people wait for a table than complain about the bad service and slow time to get served.

Not that the Olive Garden ever cared about complaints.

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Voting closed 7

Keeping one section closed when you don't happen to have enough staff for your full occupancy is one thing.
However, I'm talking about regular, anticipated, busy times when it should be easy to anticipate the demand and have enough staff - and it keeps happening again and again!

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Voting closed 1

During a pandemic, restaurants ought to remain closed. Since the beginning of the contagion, I have observed folks waiting at Lamplighter in Cambridge for takeout on both sides of the street. At times patrons do not practice social distancing or wear masks. To add more salt to the wound as patrons walk towards the restaurant they commit the same public health breaches. Based on this observation I am going to say food, booze, and a pandemic are not a good mixture. The icing on the cake is that at a nearby house several men hang out blasting music not wearing masks and not practicing social distancing. Thankfully by blasting their music, I know where they are and avoid them like the plague. Uggghhhhh!

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Voting closed 2

"The icing on the cake is that at a nearby house several men hang out blasting music not wearing masks and not practicing social distancing." What does that have to do with restaurants reopening for dine-in?

RE: the rest of your comments - so restaurants should just stay closed for the next ? months or years until [a vaccine is developed and administered to all] because you personally observed a few people not following the guidelines? Wouldn't it be better / easier to reprimand the few, than to punish the many?

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Voting closed 2

...if the city (or state) just suspended enforcement of some liquor license requirements, like the indoor/outdoor thing? Making them obtain a new license or amend their current license seems onerous, especially if there is a fee.

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."

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Voting closed 14

At this stage in the Pandemic our best available preventative is Fresh Air and Sunshine
Remember that outside --- that there is no virus in the air, unless we put it there, and then it is only there for seconds -- So:

  • 1st -- The public should be encouraged to take maximum advantage of the New England -- Spring/Summer/Autumn -- go outdoors and stay outdoors for all those marvelous long solar days [currently approaching 15 hours]
  • 2nd -- do away with any need for 2m [6ft] or greater spacing outdoors -- just maintain normal civic distancing [not social] -- the distance at which the public is typically comfortable -- essentially just don't breathe into someone's face
  • 3rd -- no masks outside unless the distance is so close that you can feel the other person's breath on your face
  • 4th -- outdoor dining should be encouraged -- including impromptu and alfresco dining on the beach, on the patio, in the parks, city hall plaza, on a boat, on the islands, on the Greenway, On the Harbor Walk

It is too late to have a rollicking 4th -- So let's take advantage of history -- let's celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII with fireworks and such

Finally -- there should be maximum encouragement by tax credits for all buildings used for any public function to increase the flow of fresh air, enhance the indoor ventilation and install extensive amounts of UV -- make the indoors look like the outdoors

Note the above is based on the best available real science -- not fake science and not politically tainted science

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Voting closed 9