Restaurants hope to be included in first phase of Baker’s plan to reopen Massachusetts’ economy

BOSTON (WHDH) - Gov. Charlie Baker says Massachusetts will take a cautious approach to reopening the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic — but, with less than a week to go, he has remained tight-lipped regarding the details of that approach.

Many businesses — notably restaurants — are hoping to be included in the first phase of the process with more than 100 restaurateurs putting their own plan in place to partially reopen their spaces come May 19, with an eye on safety.

Should hospitalizations stay low, those restaurant owners said they hope they can go back to operating at full capacity in June.

‘We just want to make sure the restaurant industry is represented the right way,” said Joe Fara, founder of the Tuscan Kitchen. “We want to open safely. We want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.”

Fara is a part of the Massachusetts Restaurant and Jobs group who sent a letter to the governor that detailed their plans to reopen their businesses safely.

In the letter, they said they would:

  • Reconfigure patios, dining rooms and bars to meet social distancing
  • Test employee temperatures
  • Wear masks
  • Require customers to wear masks when not seated
  • Sanitize facilities
  • Reduce restroom capacities by 50 percent
  • Eliminate inside waiting

Owners said that restaurants are already one of the cleanest and most regulated industries.

“We feel we can offer a safe environment for you to come in and dine and we do not frankly see a difference between dining in our restaurants, provided that you are at a safe distance, to shopping in Target or Walmart,” Fara said.

So far, Baker has not said which businesses might be able to reopen in phase one of his four-part plan.

The state’s current stay-at-home advisory is set to expire Monday.

“I want this to be done in a deliberate way and you don’t do something in a deliberate way if you start leaking it out and issuing it out before you actually release the report,” Baker said. “I don’t want the so-called starting gun to go off today or tomorrow. I want it to go off on Monday, and I want it to go off in a targeted and phased way,” Baker said.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh was also asked about the possibility of restaurants opening back up, to which he said, “I do not anticipate restaurants necessarily being opened next week. I do not know if we will be ready for next week but we have to start thinking it will be fast-tracked.”

Dave Ferrando, the owner of Causeway, said the health and safety of employees and customers is a priority but a reopening under 50 percent occupancy is not sustainable.

“Restaurants can’t operate under that,” he said. “Our margins are very low and to make a profit out of it is hard.”

West End Johnnie’s owner John Caron reiterated that if there are not enough customers to serve, it is not worth reopening.

“It’s not enough money to generate to either pay for the kitchen staff or the bartender, manager or the food,” he said. “It’s not worth turning the lights on.”

Some owners said that if they are forced to reopen under those circumstances, their employees will likely make more money collecting unemployment.

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