Baker: Mass. restaurants can now use bar seating, place up to 10 people at tables

BOSTON (WHDH) - With temperatures starting to drop and outdoor dining becoming less desirable, Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday announced that restaurants can reopen their bar seating for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic shut businesses across Massachusetts.

To applause from an audience at Mill City BBQ in Lowell, Baker said that starting on Monday, Sept. 28, restaurants will be allowed to use bar seating for food service, with social distancing measures in place.

“While bars remain closed in Massachusetts, restaurants with bar seating may now use those spaces for food service with the right distance measures in place,” Baker said.

The state will require restaurants to install plexiglass between bartenders and diners if drinks and food are prepared at the bar. Stools and high-top tables will also need to be spaced six feet apart.

“Really what restaurants needs is a second round of PPE funding from the federal government so that they can afford these extra costs that continue to mount in order to take care of guests,” said Bob Luiz, president of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association.

Baker also said that group seating at indoor and outdoor tables will be expanded from six people to 10.

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said maximum seating capacity at tables in the city will remain at six “for the foreseeable future” but bar seating at restaurants will be allowed.

Bars and clubs that don’t provide food service will remain closed until further notice.

The news comes one day after members of Massachusetts Restaurants United gathered outside the State House to urge lawmakers to pass the Economic Development Bill, which would make grants to struggling independent eateries, put caps on predatory third-party delivery fees, and provide other provisions to support the besieged restaurant sector.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, about 20 percent of Massachusetts restaurants have permanently closed their doors.

(Copyright (c) 2020 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)