Another step: Indoor dining resumes Monday

Nail salons, fitting rooms to reopen; office capacity to increase

MASSACHUSETTS WILL TAKE another significant reopening step on Monday, with the Baker administration allowing restaurants to offer indoor dining, retailers to open dressing rooms by appointment only, nail salons to open for the first time, and offices to bump up from 25 to 50 percent of capacity.

The openings are the second step of Phase 2, which began on June 8. Gov. Charlie Baker said Phase 3 will begin in July, but only after he has assessed COVID-19 data after two full weeks of indoor dining.

Restaurants, which have been serving diners at tables outdoors, will now be allowed to invite patrons inside in parties of no more than six. There is no limit on the number of customers, but tables must be six feet apart and bar seating is prohibited.

Baker said he was “pleasantly surprised” by how well outdoor dining has gone. He urged people to continue practicing social distancing, wearing masks in public, and monitoring potential coronavirus symptoms so that the data trends he and health officials are keeping an eye on continue to trend in a positive direction.

“One lesson we learn from all of this is to respect the virus and take it seriously,” Baker said. “Don’t let your guard down.”

Lt Gov. Karyn Polito, who co-chairs the state’s reopening advisory board, said that close contact services like nail salons will reopen Monday with social distancing restrictions, and that dressing rooms can open by appointment only. Offices, which were allowed to open during Phase 1 at 25 percent capacity, can increase to 50 percent.

“Employers should still encourage employees to work from home and telework in dense areas,” said Baker. In the Boston area, he encouraged people to work from home to keep the number of commuters down on the MBTA system.

Jon Hurst, the president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, said he was encouraged after Friday’s announcement. His organization recently surveyed its members and found 30 percent of respondents were somewhat or extremely concerned that they would not survive the pandemic.

With fitting rooms opening by appointment, Hurst said, bridal shops can finally get down to business. “They can’t really do anything unless the young ladies are trying on the gowns and bridesmaid dresses,” he said.

June 2020, restaurants, reopening, PPE, brewery

Cambridge Brewing Company opens for lunch during the first day of outdoor seating. (Photo by Sarah Betancourt)

He said shops will have to decide what they do with garments that have been tried on. He noted shops in some states have waited 24 hours before they return items that have been tried on to racks, while elsewhere items have been steam cleaned before being returned to the shop floor.

Bob Luz, the president of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, anticipated the indoor dining announcement, and is glad that public health data is trending in a positive way. Restauranteurs, he said, have been preparing their dining rooms to comply with the six-foot distancing requirement.

Luz lauded Boston, Waltham, and Salem for making outdoor seating easier for businesses that didn’t have that option before coronavirus. But some communities, he said, are “dragging their feet.” He specifically mentioned Somerville and Falmouth. Luz anticipates around 3,600 of the state’s 16,000 restaurants will close as a result of the pandemic.

“Somerville has been slow to react and keeps extending the process and putting out guidelines greater than what the governor has put out,” he said, mentioning the requirement in Somerville that tables be eight feet apart as opposed to six. “It’s been frustrating. We’re just trying to put the residents of their cities back to work.”

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Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone said the city is just being cautious. “As the economy continues to reopen, we face the challenge of wanting to support our local business community but making sure we do so in a way that protects workers, customers, and the general public,” he said. “Unfortunately, there’s no playbook for COVID-19, so we’re being careful.”

For Luz, the important message to get out is that restaurants are ready to follow safety protocols. “Our already very high standards have been elevated more in this crisis,” he said. “We’re the most regulated industry behind healthcare.”