Chamber News

June 12, 2020 Likes Comments

Get out! (and eat)

Our housing shortage, especially the lack of housing for low wage workers, is particularly dire in our inner suburbs and creates major hiring challenges for hotels, stores, restaurants and other employers.

And it appears to be getting worse. Nearly 30 percent of those surveyed in a Mass Inc. poll statewide were unable to pay at least part of their rent between April and June. The hardest hit are the young and low-income workers, writes pollster Steve Koczela.
Not only do renters need relief, but so do many landlords and property owners, Jennifer Benson and David Gasson of the Alliance for Business Leadership, remind us in a new BBJ op-ed.
“[Owners are] facing their own mounting bills that put their properties in financial peril and their livelihoods at risk. Many of these properties provide essential services to elderly and disabled tenants and employ managers and staff that care for the properties and their inhabitants. Unlike other small businesses, most of these entities did not qualify for benefits from the federal Paycheck Protection Program due to antiquated Small Business Administration guidelines.”
Benson and Gasson go on to call for creating more housing, zoning reform (the most urgent issue before the Newton City Council this year) and renewing our investments in energy-efficiency programs.
Medical practices hit hard too
Here’s more sobering news: More than 20 percent of primary care and behavioral care practices and at least 40 percent of specialty and “other” practices were considering closing altogether, according to a survey conducted from late May through early June. About 60 percent of practices reported having to furlough, layoff, or cut salaries of employees. Shira Schoenberg has details.

Get out! (and eat)
The weekend is here. The forecast will be ideal to visit one of our many local restaurants who are eager to see you and serve you outdoors.
We’ve been busy compiling our directory and will keep adding to the list as you tell us about it. Please share the directory with friends and on social media. And LEAVE BIG TIPs!
Unfortunately, some of our restaurants don’t have enough sidewalk or other outdoor space to meet the needed safe social distancing protocols. We hope Newton will join Waltham (check out these photos of Moody Street!), Boston and other municipalities in closing street lanes or street parking spaces to accommodate more establishments.
Newton has followed Needham by adding picnic tables to some public parks and parking lots across the city so that’s a good option too. (You can even enjoy a beer-to-go in the not-so-long ago dry Needham.)
And we can finally add Watertown to the list of municipalities relaxing the outdoor rules too. The town will begin accepting applications for temporary outdoor seating on Tuesday.
Creem to testify for restaurant relief bill today
The state Senate will hold a hearing this afternoon (Friday) at 1:30 p.m. on the Restaurant Relief Bill, which has already been approved by the House. Today’s virtual hearing will be livestreamed to the public via the Facebook pages of House Chair Tackey Chan and Senate Chair Paul Feeney.
Newton Sen. Cindy Creem told me last night that she would be testifying in favor of the bill, which has already passed the house. It would among other things:
  • Authorize mixed beverages to be sold to go (currently only beer and wine can be sold to go)
  • Place a 15 percent cap on the fees 3rd party delivery companies such as DoorDash or GrubHub can charge restaurants.
  • Remove the interest and penalties that restaurants may incur if they fail to pay their state meals tax on time through the end of the year;
  • Streamline of the process to authorize increased outdoor dining opportunities for on-premises consumption.
If you missed the chamber’s discussion yesterday “Rethinking, Redesigning and Re-imagining Restaurants” you can click here for the recording.
Newton Centre loses a friend, welcomes another
Comedor, the beloved Chilean-American restaurant on Union Street in Newton Centre has closed. But Chef Fernanda Tapia, who co-owns the restaurant with her ex-husband and chef Jakob White, told that they made the decision to sell Comedor, which opened in 2014 before the COVID crisis.
And the good news is the space has an exciting new tenant called Thistle & Leek. This will be the first restaurant for chefs Kate and Trevor Smith who met cooking on the line at the Craigie Street Bistro over a decade ago and since then have gone on to cook at amazing restaurants such as Le Bernardin, Straight Wharf, Ventuno, and Gramercy Tavern.
And the chamber has 49 new friends!
On Wednesday, we reported the successful completion of a fundraising campaign aimed to close a projected $75,000 deficit this year for the chamber.
Thanks to the incredible generosity of business of all sizes and many individuals we exceeded our goal, raising just under $100,000.
Thanks to your support, we’re confident that we’ll be able to keep our remarkable chamber team on board and continue our advocacy and programming for the rest of this year, with a cushion to help us into the start of what could be a challenging 2021 for so many of us.
But, wait there’s more.
In conjunction with our campaign we also introduced our Citizen Member program; a new way for individuals to support the chamber’s advocacy and programming. Citizen Members are individuals who are not directly affiliated with a local business or nonprofit organization but share and want to support our mission.
I had hoped we might end this year with one dozen Citizen Members. I was wrong. Forty-nine individuals have signed up so far.
There will, no doubt, be times when we will be turning to our Citizen Members to help us advocate for our shared values and commitment to the overall economic and cultural vitality of our communities. Please join me in welcoming them:
Josephine McNeil
Bruce A. Gold
Claire Sokoloff
Robert Gifford
Harvey Felton
Chryse Gibson
Mark Miller
Bernard Lebow
Deborah Terman
Bruce Brumberg
Dave Jacobson
Eleanor White
Nicole Batakis
Joseph Sanromá
Arnold Bearak
Amy McGregor-Radin
Susan Heyman
Marian Knapp
Howard Barnstone
Groot Gregory
Maurice Handel
Kathleen Brown
Barry Coffman
Mary Blunt
Kara Brewton
Alicia Bowman
Allison Sharma
Jim Rapoport
Gloria Mastrocola Gavris
Dottie Fulginiti
Richard Freedberg
Marianne Cooley
Kathryn Raiz
Kimberley Spencer
Kris Danna
Jennifer Muroff
Sarah MacDonald
Kathleen Hobson
David Kaplan
Kathleen Powers
Sheila Roberts
Lisa Monahan
Nancy Brown
Laurel Farnsworth
Laurence Field
Jean Wood
Michael Greis and Gloria Greis
Katerie Ward
Have a great weekend everyone. And remember TIP YOUR WAITPERSON and visit a local merchant soon.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
Your chamber is here when you need us.
P.S. By the way, we haven’t had an non-virtual chamber event since early March. But we think we’ve figured out how to safely hold one in August. Tell you more on Monday.

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