A group of about 100 restaurant owners, managers, and hospitality personnel sent an open letter to Governor Charlie Baker on Tuesday, asking to partially reopen on May 19 and resume full operations in June, offering a peek at what restaurants could look like in the commonwealth when the moratorium on dining lifts.
In the letter, the group details the measures they’d take to ensure safety among diners and staff, which include separating tables by six feet, keeping waiting lines socially distanced outdoors, limiting restroom facilities, and requiring guests to wear masks until they are seated.
A restaurant would also have to test the temperatures of its staff and create a contingency plan in case an employee tests positive for the virus. The letter makes clear the openings should only occur if hospitalizations in the state continue to decline, and also suggests towns and cities could slow the timeline on restaurants in their area if local hospitalizations rise.
“To create a safe, legal framework to reopen, we deserve a seat at the table, guidelines and a timetable, now,” the group said in the open letter. “Restaurants are one of the top few generators of jobs, tax revenue, and culture in Massachusetts. Hard-working industry employees have been denied the right to make a living, and many will lose their job permanently.”
The letter comes amid growing questions about what the reopening of the state will look like. Governor Baker released a broad outline of the four-stage plan the state will follow to reopen businesses during the pandemic. The current shutdown orders on nonessential businesses are set to expire Monday, however, many details about the governor’s reopening plans remain undisclosed, including a timeline of the different stages and which industries will be included in each one.
The letter said that the hospitality industry is “one of the cleanest, most regulated, industries.” The group hopes restaurants can open next Tuesday with COVID-19-related restrictions in place until June 18, when business could return to full capacity.
“We can operate safer than a Walmart, Target, Home Depot, or a supermarket,” the group wrote. “Unlike the owners and presidents of most of these multibillion-dollar, multinational companies, we live here and work in our stores, so our safety measures impact us and our families.”
The restaurant industry has been decimated by the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic downturn. According to the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, the losses are expected to be as high as $2.3 billion.
Governor Baker has already relaxed the rules for retailers and allowed golf courses to reopen with some restrictions. He is expected to disclose more details about the four-stage plan next week when an advisory board is set to deliver a report on reopening.