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No dining in restaurants, but what about takeout lines?

Dan Doherty (middle), vice president and director of operations for Kelly's Roast Beef, informed people on Revere Beach that the restaurant was no longer offering takeout service because of the COVID-19 pandemic.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

As the first workweek under a stay-at-home advisory ended Friday evening with temperatures in the balmy low-60s, crowds descended on Revere Beach for fresh air, exercise, and takeout meals at places like the original Kelly’s Roast Beef.

But in a city where COVID-19 cases have surged by 700 percent since Monday, large groups of customers waiting for fish plates, lobster rolls, and roast beef sandwiches appeared to municipal officials like a recipe for a rapid virus spread.

Something had to give, and on Saturday, takeout service at Revere Beach restaurants became another victim of the pandemic.

“[Friday] was very busy on the beach, like any other normal, nice day in March. But this isn’t a normal day and we’re not in normal times, and so we just need to do everything we can,” said Revere’s mayor, Brian Arrigo, who rode in a city van along the beach Saturday afternoon and used a bullhorn to warn crowds about the outbreak.

Mayor Brian Arrigo of Revere used a bullhorn Saturday to warn crowds on Revere Beach about the COVID-19 pandemic. Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Since Governor Charlie Baker ordered restaurants and bars to stop serving food and drinks onsite two weeks ago, concerns have been raised about whether the ban just shifted the risk from the dining room to the takeout line as restaurant patrons gather en masse at meal times to pick up food to go.


In Revere, the indefinite ban on takeout food service applies only to restaurants on Revere Beach Boulevard, Arrigo said. Restaurants there can still offer food for delivery service, he said.

More than 70 residents have contracted the virus in the city, which has about 54,000 people, and twopeople who tested positive for COVID-19 have died, Arrigo said.

At Kelly’s, the original restaurant in the iconic local chain, management implemented measures to guard against spreading the virus. Picnic tables were wrapped in yellow caution tape. Customers were urged to stay behind an orange line painted on the ground near takeout windows, and signs instructed patrons not to touch the counter or lean on it.


The restaurant’s next-door neighbor is Jack Satter House, the senior-living facility under quarantine because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Since the quarantine was enacted on Thursday, people have been gathering on the sidewalk to “visit” with relatives who live there through windows, adding to the crowds near Kelly’s.

“Too many people are hanging around. That’s what it comes down to,” said Dan Doherty, vice president and director of operations for Kelly’s. The Revere restaurant will keep its delivery service, and Kelly’s other locations are still open for takeout, drive-through, and delivery service, he said.

But those options couldn’t help John and Karen Ryle, who drove to Kelly’s from Quincy hoping to order scallops and fish and chips, but were turned away. They said they didn’t know about the new rules when they set out for the restaurant.

“Kelly’s is a favorite,” Karen Ryle said sadly.

Restaurants statewide are trying different techniques, like delivering takeout orders to customers’ cars or having patrons pick up food at the door, to limit the virus’s spread, said Bob Luz, president and chief executive of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association.

“Operators are adapting quickly to exactly what we need them to do in order to safely take care of the guest and safely take care of their employees,” said Luz.


So far, he said he hasn’t received reports about long lines or large groups gathering outside restaurants for takeout orders. Restaurants are struggling, Luz said, and owners are counting on the Legislature to pass a bill allowing businesses with liquor licenses to sell beer and wine for off-site consumption.

“These guys need to try to get to the other side, and it’s not going to be easy,” Luz said.

In Lynn, a line more than 30 cars deep spilled from Starbucks parking lot onto the Lynnway just before 11 a.m. Saturday as people waited to order from the drive-through window.

The coffee shop had closed its counter service to customers, transforming the line for the drive-though window into a test of patience and will.

Jacob Carlson of Chelsea and a friend, Patricia Horn of Everett, closed in on the drive-through window after a 40-minute wait. There was no telling whether his coffee would still be hot by the time it hit his lips.

“I was just looking for anywhere to go to have a coffee and take a walk outside, basically. It seemed like one of the only places,” he said.

Ashley Patient of Lynn said she thought twice before joining the line to order an iced lemonade drink.

“I asked myself if it was worth it, but I’ve been kind of craving one, so it definitely is,” she said.

By noon, however, the number of cars backed onto the Lynnway was too much for State Police troopers, who dispersed the line.


A Massachusetts State Police Trooper dispersed motorists on the Lynnway who were trying to reach the drive-through at Starbucks on Saturday. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

In the North End, L’Osteria has a different problem. It had no lines, and the owner said she plans to close Sunday and reopen when the the ban on dine-in service is lifted.

“It’s awful; it’s not the same,” said owner Daniela DiPietrantonio. “Some businesses are doing well, you know, pizza and sub shops. We’re not that kind of business. We’re dining and sit-down, have a bottle of wine, and enjoy-your-meal type of thing.”

At Sullivan’s Castle Island, customers called in orders from outside the restaurant and then picked up the food from workers running meals outside.

Most customers seemed to catch on quickly, but Peggy Linehan, 76, a Tufts Medical Center technician from South Boston, complained of one man tying up the phone line.

“It’s just a hot dog stand,” she said. “It’s either a hot dog or a hamburger.”

In Quincy, James Michaels, general manager at Crush Pizza, said the kitchen ran out of dough by 8 p.m. on Friday, and exhausted its supply of pepperoni, bacon, and sausage after an unexpected burst of orders beginning in the afternoon.

Michaels said Crush, which is offering free slices to “anyone that is hungry and fallen on hard times,” is trying to keep up with the unpredictable swings of demand.

“We’re doing the best we can, just like everyone else,” he said.

John Tlumacki of the Globe staff and correspondents Matt Berg and Lucas Phillips contributed to this report.


Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com. Follow her @lauracrimaldi.