Bar seating, tables with up to 10 people to be allowed at Mass. restaurants

BOSTON (WHDH) - With temperatures starting to drop and outdoor dining becoming less desirable, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Wednesday that restaurants will be able to 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, 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.

Baker added 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.

“I understand things are a little different in Boston than the rest of Massachusetts so I hope that we’ll be able to lift those restrictions for us,” he said as the city crept close to becoming a high-risk community for the coronavirus.

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

John Brewer, the general manager of Stillwater, said he hopes these restrictions will loosen soon.

“I understand things are a little different in Boston than the rest of Massachusetts so I hope that we’ll be able to lift those restrictions for us, so that we can keep it moving along,” he said.

Even as they relax, many restaurant owners say they are still in trouble.

West End Johnnies, which sits near the TD Garden, has seen an 80 percent drop in revenue with no Celtics or Bruins games happening nearby.

Managing partner David Glucksman said he does not think that stools placed six feet apart at the bar will make much of a difference and the cost of putting up the plexiglass can be pricey.

“It’s not a cure-all by any means,” he said.

Restaurant advocates said that business owners really need more financial assistance to keep them afloat.

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

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