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A quarter of Mass. restaurants may close for good because of COVID-19

Outdoor diners at the 110 Grill at South Bay.
Outdoor diners at the 110 Grill at South Bay.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

The coronavirus pandemic could wipe out roughly one quarter of the state’s restaurants, according to the Massachusetts Restaurant Association.

The group predicts that about 3,600 of Massachusetts’ 16,000 restaurants will not survive the pandemic, based on reports from the state’s two major food suppliers. Bob Luz, the president and chief executive of the restaurant group, has said this number could climb higher as the pandemic continues to take a toll on the food industry.

“We really won’t know until we actually start reopening,” Luz said in an interview. “Sadly, I believe that number is pretty spot on.”

On Friday, Governor Charlie Baker announced the state’s restaurants can begin offering indoor dining, with certain restrictions, on Monday, June 22. Restaurants have been operating with no indoor dining since March 17, and only some have the ability to offer outdoor service, which was allowed to resume June 8. Before the pandemic, only 20 percent of the state’s restaurants had outdoor dining available, Luz said.

And while revenues have fallen, the bills keep coming — Luz has said that 50 percent of the restaurants he’s surveyed said they did not get a break on their rent.

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Luz said the closures will likely impact downtown Boston at a higher rate than other communities around the state because of the high restaurant density and lack of normal customer-traffic drivers, including business travel, colleges, sports, and tourism.

“I think you are going to see some restaurants not even try to reopen because they realize they would lose money,” he said. “And once we reopen, how many restaurants will try to get going, but then can’t?”

The coronavirus pandemic has already caused some restaurants to close their doors.

This week, Harvard Square’s Café Pamplona closed after 62 years, due largely to the absence of students who make up nearly 90 percent of its customer base. Jamaica Plain’s Bella Luna & The Milky Way will close because of the effects of COVID-19, too.

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“These are people that have put their heart and soul into their communities, businesses, and employees,” Luz said. “They are not able to survive this pandemic and it is heartbreaking.”


Anissa Gardizy can be reached at anissa.gardizy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @anissagardizy8.