Massachusetts restaurants, shuttered by coronavirus, push Baker to reopen

More than 100 Massachusetts restaurateurs are calling on Gov. Charlie Baker and the Legislature to allow them to reopen with some restrictions by Tuesday, and at full capacity 30 days later.

“At first, we wanted to flatten the curve (of coronavirus infections); I feel that’s been accomplished, and we want to get back to work,” said Dave Delancey, owner of the Lobster Trap in Bourne. “Why is it OK for Walmart or Home Depot to be open but a restaurant or the local barber can’t? We don’t want people to die, but it’s time to get back to work. Enough is enough.”

In an open letter to officials, the group proposes that the individual municipalities be allowed to slow this timetable and announce an alternative time frame if local COVID-19 hospitalizations begin to rise.

To open legally and safely, the group says, the owners will:
• Reconfigure patios, dining rooms and bars to meet the social distancing standard of six feet apart
• Sanitize the facilities
• Create marked lines for waiting outside, eliminating inside waiting
• Sanitize menus after each use or replace with disposable and online menus
• Meet National Restaurant Association reopening standards
• Test employee temperatures
• Create protocols to shut down and sanitize if an employee tests positive
• Allow only one customer at a time to use the restroom
• Wear masks
• Require customers to wear them when not seated, and
• Post pictures and videos on social media to show that restaurants are meeting standards.

In a statement, a spokesman for the state’s Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development said: “The Reopening Advisory Board has met with a variety of business groups and community coalitions and will make specific recommendations to the governor in accordance with public health guidelines.”

Delancey said he closed his restaurant’s dining room on March 16 and laid off all 67 of his employees. He rehired 35 when he opened for takeout on April 20, but he estimates that by the end of May, he will have lost $1.2 million in gross revenue.

Cabby Brini, owner of the CabbyShack in Plymouth, estimates he lost hundreds of thousands of dollars since he closed in mid-March and laid off about 45 employees. Like Delancey, he reopened for takeout a few days later, but the days he was closed, he said,  “you don’t get back.”

“I’m scared,” Brini said. “Most of my business is in the spring and summer. I’ve been at this location close to 20 years. This is my dream business. But if we don’t reopen soon, I probably will not make it through the winter.”

As the coronavirus crisis grew into a pandemic, Chris Carpenter, owner of Faneek’s Coney Island in Fall River, closed his dining room for the safety of his five employees and his customers before Baker’s order.

His wife, Elizabeth Carpenter, set up a takeout window on March 23 and had their employees wear masks and take food out to people in their cars. But the restaurant has had a 50% drop in sales from last year, he said, and the business hasn’t come back.

“The worst part is the uncertainty,” he said. “Is the governor going to extend the shutdown another 30 days? … Our customers are our priority. We can do this without being policed by the government.”

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