Chamber News

Needham / Newton
February 12, 2021 Likes Comments

Change could transform Wellesley's dining scene

Can a state-mandated shutdown absolve a business from paying rent?

In a ruling that might have broad implications for restaurants, gyms and retailers, a Suffolk Superior Court judge has ruled that a Caffe Nero shop on Newbury Street does not have to pay back rent for the three months when indoor dining was ordered closed by the state, reports Tim Logan and Janelle Nanos at the Globe.
A similar lawsuit involving a Beacon Hill SoulCycle studio is also moving through the same court.
And in a different case, two Boston restaurant have filed lawsuits against their insurance companies after denying them business interruption claims also due to last year's shutdown order, the Herald reports.
Proposal could transform Wellesley’s dining scene

A proposal on the just-finalized Wellesley Annual Town Meeting warrant could entice small boutique restaurants to open in town and, in turn, help fill an alarming number of empty storefronts.

Under Article 21, restaurants would no longer need at least 50 seats to obtain a liquor license.
That restriction has likely discouraged small cafes, bistros and other intimate independent restaurants that are popular in surrounding communities from opening in Wellesley.

The Select Board advanced the proposal on Monday. In addition to Town Meeting’s approval in April, it also needs to be blessed on Beacon Hill and, finally, from voters.
That's a lot of steps for one change. It's another instance where the state should get out of the business of regulating municipalities' licensing decisions.
But as Needham (which once went through a similar process) and other communities with vibrant dining scenes know, the change will be transformative and well worth the effort.
PPP good news…and meh
Democrats in Congress have released a proposal that would include an additional $7.25 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program.

Unfortunately, the proposal -- part of the next COVID relief package -- does not extend the PPP’s current March 31 deadline. Dems aren’t expecting to pass the bill until mid-March, which would create a short timeframe before PPP expires.

The House committee proposal also includes an additional $15 billion for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance program and a $25 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
The SBA meanwhile, is currently taking steps to improve the PPP process after outreach from industry groups about flaws in the initiative, reports Andy Medici for the BBJ.

Riverside change has great upside for Newton
Mark Development's Robert Korff believes the proposed changes to his Riverside Station project would create a new destination for life sciences, research and development and other innovation economy companies along Route 128, writes John Hilliard at the Globe.
Korff wants to replace a planned hotel with a life sciences building, while eliminating a proposed hotel and reducing some office, retail and residential units. The change needs the Newton City Council’s approval.
“This pivotal location has been an underutilized parking lot for far too long and we are eager to assure that the city of Newton sees maximum benefit from its redevelopment,” Korff told the Globe.
The changes at Riverside would net Newton an extra $800,000 annually in commercial tax revenue and potentially a lot more if it inspires other life sciences companies to locate in Newton. The new configuration is also expected to reduce the anticipated number of rush hour car trips.
$7.2 million in mitigation funds -- including $1.5 million for Williams School improvements, $3 million for the Riverside/Charles River trail network, $1.3 for neighborhood improvements and $1.4 million to upgrade the city’s sewer system-- would not change, according to Mayor Ruthanne Fuller.
State awards more small biz grants
Another $64 million in state grants to 1,312 additional businesses were announced by Gov. Charlie Baker yesterday.
“With this round of awards, our efforts to deliver vital assistance to foster our economic recovery have now reached more than 11,000 businesses across the Commonwealth for a total of over a half billion dollars in direct financial support,” Baker said.
There’s still millions left in the till. Mass Growth Capital Corp. has been reaching out to applicants that were missing documents necessary to be considered for an award.
Yesterday, I heard from several frustrated chamber members who said they’ve been notified that they're missing information, but have no way to reach someone at MGCC to help sort things out.
Other local applicants have been notified of their awards but are anxiously awaiting payment.

Need to knows
  • English for New Bostonians will host a virtual panel "Looking Ahead: Equity, Opportunity and the Immigrant Workforce." on Tuesday (Feb. 23) at 1 p.m. The very-impressive panel includes: Mass Labor Secretary Rosalin Acosta, Boston Planning and Development Agency Research Director Alvaro Lima, Eastern Bank President Quincy Miller and Little Leaf Farms founder Paul Sellow. Register here.
  • Today's the deadline to apply to have a Babson student consulting team work on a project for your business or nonprofit at no cost to your organization. Information here.
Auto insurers asked to reduce rates

Lawmakers and consumer advocates are once again asking auto insurance companies to reduce monthly premiums, arguing that the industry has reaped big profits during the pandemic, reports the Gloucester Daily Times.

"Drivers are effectively being punished for heeding public health guidelines and staying off the roads," said State Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover. "Auto insurance companies have made windfall profits during 2020 because of reduced driving activity."
Baker’s BOGO backfires
Was anyone surprised by this?
Nearly as soon as Gov. Charlie Baker announced that residents 75-plus and a companion could both be vaccinated at the same time, the ads starting showing up on Craigslist and elsewhere from vaccine chasers willing to drive — and in some cases even pay cash or buy lunch -- to be their plus-one.
Baker’s BOGO offer (as in, bring-one, get-one) is only available at the state’s mass vax sites.
“We have heard some pretty disturbing reports of some people trying to take advantage of this program already with some people posting online trying to get a senior to bring them to a vaccination site,” Baker said yesterday.
“If you’re contacted by somebody soliciting to take you to a site, please report it to the authorities,” he said.
The Globe has created this tool to track the state's vaccination progress.
Can’t find a senior? Dr. Anthony Fauci told NBC’s “Today” show that by April it will be “open season” for virtually everybody and anybody” to get a vaccine.
He said it will take “several more months” to logistically deliver injections to adult Americans but predicted herd immunity could be achieved by late summer.
Can't come soon enough!
Have a great Valentine’s and Presidents’ Day weekend.

President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
Your chamber is here when you need us.
Dine out. Take out. Shop locally. Mask up. And tip generously.


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