“It is certainly a burden on us to play cops while we try to do our real jobs,” said a food service industry leader.
Rochambeau. Emily Chan
Charlie Baker, in response to “disruptive” COVID-19 trends, announces the nationwide withdrawal of Massachusetts’ reopening plan
Amid worrying COVID-19 numbers, Massachusetts is stepping back on its reopening plans.
On Tuesday, Governor Charlie Baker announced statewide rollbacks in response to rising COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts. Starting December 13, cities and towns will have to return to the first step of Phase 3, with the governor lamenting during a press conference that “the days when most people do most of the right things are probably not enough”.
Additional restrictions have also been announced, some of which directly affect the food service industry. Guests must now wear a mask, except when eating or drinking, the tables will be limited to six guests each, a time limit of 90 minutes will be imposed on each table, and live music performances will no longer be allowed.
For many restaurateurs – if not all – the nationwide rollback will have a noticeable impact on business. Boston.com reached out to leading restaurant operators to learn more about how Baker’s latest announcement will affect their operations.
The answers have been edited slightly and compressed for reasons of space and clarity.
Arpit Patel, owner of Baramor
“The restaurant industry continues to be singled out for no merit or help. Anyone walking the aisles of a grocery store or hardware store needs to know that restaurants are actually able to control their surroundings and their guests. It seems like the governor’s office doesn’t care about the real data, but rather responds to political pressure. If we want to contain the virus, there is an answer: an actual shutdown of everything. “
Dave Becker, Executive Chef at Sweet Basil, Juniper
“This is certainly not the biggest rollback we’ve seen, but it adds to general concern about indoor eating. I’m pretty sure this was a nail in the coffin for anyone who was a little uncomfortable before. I think Governor Baker is in a difficult position, and so are all of us as restaurateurs. It’s not that we were busy before these current rollbacks. We’re all just trying to make the best of a bad situation. “
Jay Spencer, owner at French Press Bakery
“The rollback catches up with people’s interactions over the past three to four weeks. We have already started to reintroduce our contactless pick-up service and roadside pick-up service as fewer people come to order at the counter. “
Jonathan Gilman, co-founder of Brato Brewhouse + Kitchen
“The decision doesn’t seem like the last step for future rollbacks. To some extent, more determined action and subsequent government support would now help us make more informed decisions. This winter’s slow bleeding is more dangerous than anything the government could do. When the majority of the sprawling events are taking place in private homes, I just don’t see how slowly removing business restrictions is helping to contain the spread. Business has nearly slowed to a standstill since December, with cold weather and rainfall on the weekend. Companies that don’t attract many customers in the first place without restricting rent discounts is like being kicked while we’re on the ground. “
Josh Weinstein, owner of The Quiet Few
“The rollback does not have a major impact on restaurants and bars. I appreciate the mandate of the patrons to wear their masks at all times. I would appreciate it more if bars and restaurants actually got more help instead of being the guinea pig all the time, which may or may not be certain. “
“These rollbacks are another blow to ailing restaurants at a precarious moment. We have been advocating targeted support to ensure the survival of independent restaurants for months, and we are deeply disappointed that Governor Baker’s announcement did not include emergency relief measures. Independent restaurants require extended use of the winter patios, license fee reductions for liquor, temporary caps on third-party predatory delivery charges, and direct financial assistance. Massachusetts has already lost hundreds of independent restaurants that have added vibrancy and diversity to the communities in our state. It is high time that the heads of state and government come together to pass the long-stalled economic development law and that officials at all levels renew their efforts to ensure the survival of our small businesses. “
Michael Coen, owner of The Gaff
“Consumer confidence is already at its all-time low. I believe that despite all the remarkable efforts that have been made on our part to ensure a safe and efficient dining experience, this is overlooked after yesterday’s announcement. “
Phi Pham, owner of Phinista Cafe
“We started this process last week when we only allowed 40 percent capacity. It’s difficult because we’re a small cafe and people have to wait outside in the cold while their food and drinks are being prepared. Crpes and banh mi are freshly made to order so many people have to wait outside in freezing weather during rush hour. The customer turnover time in our café is a maximum of 45-60 minutes, so the time limit of 90 minutes does not affect us too much. Overall, most of these processes have already been implemented. Of course, it will continue to affect us as we will no longer be able to enjoy meals outside. Therefore, we will reduce our staffing capacity to ensure that we remain an operating company in both the health and financial sectors. Slowly removing a patch is painful. But a firm decision to tear it down will hurt at first, but won’t drag on. We need a definitive action plan. “
William Moriarty, Rochambeau Wine and Spirits Director
“It will require more monitoring of guests, many of whom are already struggling to comply with existing guidelines. It is certainly a burden on us to play cops while we are trying to do our real jobs. It is clear that Baker made an effort to keep restaurants open. I definitely appreciate that. Nonetheless, nothing has been done to support restaurants other than simply keeping doors open, which many of our former guests walk through more nervously than ever. Financial aid from the state and the federal government is essential to keep restaurants alive, but no one seems to be making this a priority. ”