Chamber News

June 22, 2020 Likes Comments

BBJ to Newton & Watertown: Hurry up.

We’ve arrived at the start of the second half of Phase 2 of the state’s four-phase reopening plan. Starting today, here's what's eligible to reopen:

  • Indoor table service at restaurants (with six feet between tables and high foot traffic areas; no more than six people per table; no bar seating).
  • Close-contact personal services, with restrictions
  • Retail dressing rooms, by appointment only. Garments that have been tried on must be steam cleaned or held out for 24 hours before being returned to the sales floor.
  • Offices can expand from 25 percent to 50 percent capacity.
All businesses must continue to comply with the Mandatory Safety Standards for Workplaces. Here’s links to the latest guidelines for each sector:
Phase 3 of reopening will not begin until July 6, at the earliest, Gov. Charlie Baker said on Friday. Phase 3 includes gyms and health clubs, museums, movie theaters, casino floors, and at least some theaters, as well as tourist attractions like bus tours and harbor cruises.
 
BBJ editors call out Newton and Watertown
 
While restaurateurs can now offer limited indoor dining, many believe outdoor dining is critical to their long road to recovery.
 
And in an editorial last week titled “Give restaurants a fighting chance”, the editors at the Boston Business Journal called for the state and municipalities "to be more flexible and creative than ever before in trying out new ways for restaurants to operate, by allowing outdoor dining areas on streets in some cases, in extending the permissible time for outdoor dining beyond Labor Day, and in streamlining the outdoor approval process.”
 
While complimenting efforts in Boston’s North End and Moody Street in Waltham, the editorial criticized Newton and Watertown for having “been slow to allow for on-street dining, wasting a crucial chance for restaurants to make up for the nearly three months they were closed.
 
“We urge Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller and others to work more quickly to provide a way for restaurants to expand the number of tables they can offer,” the editorial continued.
 
The situations in Newton and Watertown are different, but both are frustrating to restaurateurs who've watched other communities move quickly. (How frustrating? See the next item).
 
Watertown just began taking applications for any new outdoor dining last week.
 
Outdoor dining has been allowed Newton for the past two weeks but is limited to sidewalks in front of the restaurant or privately owned lots.
 
Newton restaurateurs beg Fuller to act
 
“We are tired. We are disheartened. We are frustrated.”
 
That’s the opening line from a letter to Mayor Ruthanne Fuller sent by nine local restaurant owners; pleading for the city to expand outdoor dining “via street closures and metered parking space takeovers.”
 
Here’s the rest of their letter….
 
“We are tired of trying to find ways to pay our bills the last three months. We are tired of having to pivot in every direction just to operate in significant losses. We are tired because we are losing sleep.
 
“We are disheartened because we had to furlough our families. We are disheartened because our colleagues are losing their livelihoods. We are disheartened because the path forward is uncertain.
 
“We are frustrated by the lack of action by the City of Newton. We are frustrated that other municipalities immediately moved to support their restaurant operators but you did not. We are frustrated that we need to write this letter.
 
“Our asks are not ludicrous. We are simply requesting the City of Newton to do what our neighbors have already done. If other municipalities such as Waltham and Boston were able to immediately support restaurants with expanding dining via street closures and metered parking space takeovers, why is the City of Newton unable to provide similar support in a timely manner?
 
We know you want to help us, we know you are empathetic, we know you are working hard. But that is not enough. We need action. We need immediate results. Some of us literally cannot open for outdoor dining without using the streets or metered parking spots. Good intentions paired with inaction will lead to the death of many loved community restaurants. Covid was not in our control, but this is. Please act immediately.
 
Thank you,
Arpit Patel | Baramor
Ron Stoloff | Blue Ribbon BBQ
Nancy Cushman | Bianca
Gabriel Aguilar | Café Sol Azteca
Paul Turano | Cook Newton
Ericka Curley | Farmstead Table
Lee Cooper | Hopsters
Karen Masterson | Johnny’s Luncheonette
Artur Andronic | Moldova
 
Or, is reopening happening too quickly?
 
In a column over the weekend, Globe business columnist Larry Edelman declared ‘the great tug-of-war between science and economics was over. The country — not just red states where skepticism about the danger of coronavirus runs high — is going back to work and back to socializing, even at the risk of fueling a pandemic that is still not under control.”
 
Edelman cited a speech by Federal Reserve Bank of Boston President Eric Rosengren who has repeatedly warned about reopening too quickly.
 
“Given the death toll of the virus even with the economic lockdown, I see a substantial risk in reopening too fast and relaxing social distancing too much.” A return to work is good news only if done “safely and on a sustained basis,” Rosengren said.
 
Health Connector extension ends tomorrow
 
If you've lost a job and need health insurance, you may qualify for coverage through the Mass Health Connector. But act soon, the extended enrollment period for July 1 ends tomorrow (June 23). Apply here.
 
Green line closures
 
Shuttle buses are running this week between Riverside and Kenmore on the D Line as part of the MBTA track upgrades. Shuttles will also replace C line service from Cleveland Circle to Kenmore from July 6 to August 1. More information on Green Line work can be found here.
 
Finally...
 
We have a packed week of Zoominars ahead of us.
 
Be back tomorrow.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.

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