More stores and restaurants in Massachusetts reopened their doors to customers on Monday after Governor Charlie Baker loosened restrictions in the second step of the state’s Phase 2 reopening plan.
After two weeks of offering outdoor table service, some restaurants began allowing guests into their dining rooms, though many owners said they anticipated customers would prefer to eat al fresco.
Close-contact services like nail salons and tattoo parlors welcomed patrons for the first time since the shutdown began in mid-March.
And clothing retailers, which were allowed to reopen earlier this month, celebrated finally being able to open fitting rooms, by appointment, to customers.
Throughout Greater Boston on Monday, providers of personal services found clients clamoring to get in.
Luxie Nail Spa in the North End was busy Monday morning, with several clients in face masks getting their nails done. The salon installed plexiglass barriers at the nail stations, and all nail technicians were wearing masks and face shields. Assistant manager Rosie Nguyen said many customers had been calling to book appointments.
“A lot of clients are walking in, but we cannot take them all,” she said while working on a woman’s nails. “We can only take about half of them.”
Kelly Bottenfield of Charleston was in the salon early Monday morning — she had booked a manicure and pedicure appointment as soon as she heard the salon would reopen.
“It’s not scary — I have been going out to restaurants and I’ve gotten my hair done, so I knew what to expect,” she said through her face mask. “I’m trying to support local businesses.”
Pent-up demand had led Jamie Rivera and the other artists at the Holistic Ink tattoo parlor in Dorchester to book appointments through August and September, he said.
“COVID hasn’t stopped anyone from wanting to get tattooed. If anything, it’s upped their desire even more, especially being home for three months and they have money to spend,” he said.
Eager to reopen, the owner of Ghost in the Machine Tattoo in Brighton battled a broken air conditioning system and lack of Wi-Fi to work on the shop’s first appointment since the pandemic started. Erik Rieth’s first client made an appointment for his arm sleeve, which has been a work in progress for the past few months.
For about three hours on Monday, Rieth worked on the sleeve while wearing a surgical mask, and the client wore a bandana to cover his nose and mouth. Despite new safety restrictions, Rieth was just happy to be open again, he said.
Laura Adams, the office manager at Seaport Tattoo Co., said the store’s phone and e-mail inbox had been inundated with appointment requests since Friday. The parlor will open this weekend once it acquires safety equipment, such as plexiglass, she said.
“It has been so hard to track down,” she said.
Meanwhile, things were hardly back to normal on Monday morning when Caffe Nero on Washington Street in Downtown Crossing reopened for the first time, with both indoor and outdoor seating.
Manager Flavia Vincent said business was slow — the cafe opened at 8 a.m. and had two customers during the first two hours. To encourage social distancing, she placed paper signs on some booths and chairs that read “Please leave this seat free, prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
“We have signs on the chairs and tables, but most people will probably sit outside,” she said.
Around 11:30 a.m. on Monday, bartender Kameron Collins was sitting near the host stand outside of Sons of Boston, near Faneuil Hall. The restaurant didn’t have outdoor seating before the pandemic, so it had moved its indoor wood tables and metal chairs out to the street.
Until its patio furniture is delivered, the restaurant plans to offer indoor seating only if guests request it or if it rains, Collins said. But he’s glad the restaurant can begin to utilize its indoor space, which he said will help curb crowding outside.
“Why would we squeeze everyone on a patio, when we could spread people out across the entire space?” he said, pointing toward the empty dining room. “It just makes sense.”
As lunchtime approached, Jim Dietz was preparing to allow guests to dine inside his four North Shore restaurants: the Loft, Dos Lobos, and two Joe Fish locations. He’d thrown open the windows and moved the indoor tables six feet apart, but he wasn’t certain his patrons would bite.
Since Governor Baker allowed outdoor dining to resume, he’d installed tents at all four locations and said people were taking full advantage; he’s been doing about 60 to 70 percent of his typical capacity this time of year.
“Where indoor is going to help is on rainy days or really hot days. Now we have an option,” Dietz said. The biggest issue, he said, was that he has only half his staff in place, with many still collecting unemployment assistance — and collecting an additional $600 a week, which means they aren’t eager to return to work.
“Luckily,” he said, “our guests are just happy to be out and dining again.”
Joe Faro, who owns Tuscan Kitchen in the Seaport, said take-out orders have accounted for only a fraction of his typical sales at this time of year. “We’re off 95 percent; it hurts,” he said.
So he was eager to open the dining room for the first time Monday afternoon. The 14,000-square-foot space typically seats 300, he said, but the new capacity will be half of that.
“We’re opening at 3 p.m. and already started seeing some calls to come in,” he said. “We have a very vigorous air system which we are using to recirculate and pull in outside air, and we have the social distancing in place. We hope people will feel safe in that environment.”
Safety was on the mind of specialty retailers, as well, as they began letting customers into fitting rooms again. State mandates allow for dressing rooms to be used by appointment only.
Stacey Kraft was back in her Flair Bridal shop on Newbury Street on Monday, prepping the store for the return of brides on Tuesday. “We’ll be fully open tomorrow and have appointments,” she said. She said she was booked out for the weekend and will be at about half-capacity, with about 14 appointments on Saturday instead of the typical 27.
“We’re excited to see our brides again and see them in their dresses,” she said. She plans to steam-clean each dress between fittings. “We’ll get there slowly but surely. I’m much happier to do that than nothing at all.”