A summer tradition may return sooner rather than later in Massachusetts.
Beer gardens, breweries, wineries, and distilleries have gotten the go-ahead to open under Phase 2 of the state’s coronavirus reopening plan — albeit with some caveats. According to new guidance released Monday, those businesses can open in Phase 2, which could start as early as June 8, if they are “providing seated food service under retail food permits issued by municipal authorities.”
However, those that do not provide seated food service wouldn’t be able to reopen until Phase 4, which could start July 20 at the earliest.
It wasn’t immediately clear if some of Boston’s most popular outdoor beer gardens, such as Trillium’s space on the Greenway and Night Shift’s Owl’s Nest on the Esplanade, would be able to open under Phase 2.
Rob Burns, president of Night Shift Brewing, said that the company’s Everett and North End locations meet the food retail permit requirements, and that “our beer gardens appear to meet them as well.”
“We are working with all the various entities to confirm and are optimistic that we can enjoy some delicious craft beverages outside this summer,” Burns said in a statement.
Representatives from Trillium could not immediately be reached. However, a blog post on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy’s website says that the “opening of beer and wine gardens on The Greenway is delayed until further notice.”
“The opening of beer and wine gardens on The Greenway is delayed until further notice while the Conservancy works with our partners to evaluate guidance from the Commonwealth and City,” said Rachel Lake, marketing and community affairs manager for the organization, in a statement on Wednesday. “We look forward to bringing these beloved open-air drinkeries back to The Greenway in a way that prioritizes the health and safety of our visitors, staff, and partners.”
The boozy businesses would still have to follow safety guidelines issued to restaurants reopening under Phase 2, meaning they could provide outdoor service right from the get-go, and indoor service later on in the phase.
“The outdoor dining only restriction does significantly limit our overall capacity and will create a challenge to ensure that our Everett and Boston locations remain financially viable,” Burns noted in his statement.
According to those measures, tables must also remain six feet apart or separated by walls or six-foot-high plexiglass dividers. Parties will be capped at six people, and diners will not be allowed to sit at the bar. Menus must be disposed of after each use or otherwise be put on display or be accessible on customers’ phones. Tables and chairs must also be sanitized after each party, and utensils should be rolled or packaged.
Governor Charlie Baker has said that he plans to announce on Saturday, June 6, more information on when Phase 2 can begin.
Meanwhile, the new guidance issued Monday also dealt a blow to bars that aren’t categorized as restaurants, bumping the establishments’ reopening from Phase 3 to Phase 4, which, as the last phase in the plan, is dubbed the “New Normal.”
The reason for the change is a fairly common sense one, as state officials realized that most “bars” would be more appropriately characterized as restaurants and as such, could reopen in Phase 2, according to a representative for the Baker administration.
And while the new restaurant guidance expressly prohibits customers sitting at a bar, it does allow restaurants to reconfigure the bar area to accommodate table seating, the official said.
Bars that do not operate like restaurants seem more appropriately grouped to reopen under Phase 4, the official said, since their operations would be similar to that of a nightclub.
Meanwhile, there’s good news to be had for those hoping to order cocktails to go: State legislators in the House passed a measure Wednesday that would allow establishments to sell mixed drinks for off-premise consumption, meaning the legislation is one step closer to becoming a reality, according to the State House News Service.
The legislation would allow certain beverage alcohol licensees to sell the drinks — which would come in a sealed container — with a food purchase during the declared state of emergency or until February 28, 2021, whichever is later, according to a statement from the Distilled Spirits Council, which commended the move.
“Thousands of hospitality businesses across Massachusetts including restaurants, taverns and bars, have been closed for many weeks,” said Jay Hibbard, a Distilled Spirits Council official, in a statement e-mailed to the Globe. “Clearly, this has had a devastating impact on the nearly 350,000 people employed by on-premise establishments across the commonwealth. A new normal will be a long time coming for the almost 16,000 eating and drinking establishments in Massachusetts, and keeping these businesses viable and employees working will be critical.”
Matt Stout and Janelle Nanos of the Globe staff contributed to this report.