Restaurant restrictions could relax in Massachusetts cities and towns at lower risk of coronavirus, Charlie Baker says

Torri Donley

Massachusetts cities and towns at lower risk of coronavirus could soon see restrictions limiting business relax, a move Gov. Charlie Baker and business leaders say could help save struggling restaurants. “Our data’s gotten to a point now where people are starting to get familiar with the idea of looking at […]

Massachusetts cities and towns at lower risk of coronavirus could soon see restrictions limiting business relax, a move Gov. Charlie Baker and business leaders say could help save struggling restaurants.

“Our data’s gotten to a point now where people are starting to get familiar with the idea of looking at things on a town-by-town basis, and that makes it much easier to start thinking about something like this,” Baker said, speaking at the Bistro 5 restaurant in Medford on Thursday.

It would mean an easing of restrictions in the 290 Massachusetts communities considered at low risk of community spread, and it’s a move business leaders say they support.

“As we approach winter, they understand the dire straits that we’re in,” said Bob Luz of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association. “It would be significant.”

Outdoor patios like the one Baker toured at Bistro 5 have been a “godsend” for an industry decimated by draconian mandates on gathering sizes that have limited operations, Luz said. With winter coming, he said, restaurants will again have to pivot to keep cash flowing in.

An estimated one in five Massachusetts restaurants has gone out of business as coronavirus restrictions have cut dining-room capacity and party sizes. Baker said the measures have been necessary to slow the spread of the highly infectious virus but acknowledged it has been a “tremendous struggle” for many businesses.

“It’s been especially tough on local downtowns, main streets and the businesses in those communities,” Baker said, announcing he was doubling the cash available to businesses through the MassDOT shared streets and spaces emergency grant program from $5 million to $10 million.

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