Chamber News

September 14, 2020 Likes Comments

'Gravely concerned' about BC

I don't typically send one of these out on Monday mornings anymore. But there’s lots to tell you that really can't wait. Here’s the latest (and no extra charge either!):

Mayor ‘gravely concerned’ about BC
Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller didn’t mince words over the weekend regarding the COVID outbreak at the city's largest employer.
“I am gravely concerned about the transmission of COVID-19 at Boston College,” Fuller wrote in an email to residents Saturday. (Globe story.)
Between Aug. 16 and Sept. 11, BC has had 104 positive cases, including 67 in the past week, according to the university’s tracking dashboard.
Fuller has asked the following of BC:
  • Requested that oversight of positive case investigations and contact tracing be transferred to the Newton’s Health and Human Services Department for students who reside in Newton, both on and off campus.
  • Requested that BC increase testing and provide a daily number of all tests administered and a calculated positivity rate.
  • Said she does “not support the addition of any isolation or quarantine facilities for students in any off-campus Newton locations."
  • Suggested reducing the number of students on campus. “If Boston College does reduce its in-person student population, I strongly urge they do so with careful adherence to public health principles to avoid spread of the infection to other locales.”
“[Boston College] must act now to protect the health of their BC community and all our Newtonians,” Fuller added.
“They must act now so Newton’s low positivity rate does not rise. Boston College must act now to ensure that their operations do not threaten our ability to begin to reopen Newton schools in-person, to get our residents back to work, and our restaurants, retailers and other businesses back on their feet.”
Newton brewer files for bankruptcy
Newton’s only microbrewery, Hopsters, has filed for bankruptcy.
“It's a chapter 11 reorg, so hopefully we will be able to survive,” writes Lee Cooper, Hopsters owner and founder.
And Cooper’s fighting to reinvent and save his businesses,
“We have a new menu and new leadership and we are trying our damnedest to get people in. Alas, our Newton sales are abysmal, with an older population or younger families, people are too afraid to dine out in Newton, unemployment also doesn't help.”
He’s hoping the court will allow him to hold off on paying vendors until the pandemic subsides.
“It's a novel attempt, however not without precedent,” Cooper added. “It may be an option for similar independent restaurants to follow if they want to keep their business alive.”
One year ago, Cooper tried to convince the Fuller administration to allow him to pilot a beer garden in Newton Centre in partnership with some local restaurateurs. But the idea never gained traction.
“Small, local independent businesses need to be protected by the city,” Cooper said. “Hopefully Newton doesn't lose its only and ever brewery to COVID in 2020!”
Pandemic insurance bill is stuck in Congress
It’s not just small guys like Hopsters.
Dozens of major retailers have filed for bankruptcy too.

But a federal pandemic insurance bill (modeled after a post-9/11 law that provided protections related to acts of terrorism) has failed to gain support from Republicans, despite widespread backing from the business community. The Hill reports.
Baker releases extra bucks for outdoor amenities
Gov. Charlie Baker announced that he’s adding another $5 million to the state's Shared Streets and Spaces grant program. He emphasized that he hoped the program “eases the burden on restaurants” by extending outdoor dining seasons with funds for heaters, tents and special lighting.
Restaurants, however, can’t apply directly. Only cities and towns can.
Earlier this year the program provided $5 million to rework curbs, sidewalks, streets and parking spots to create areas for socially distanced walking, commerce, dining and other outdoor activities, including a new parklet at Wellesley Hills.
Baker also extended permitting for outdoor dining. It had been set to expire on Nov. 1 but is now allowed to remain for 60 days past the state of the emergency, or at municipal discretion.
Another closing in Needham
It's too late to help Three Squares Craft Kitchen & Cocktails in Needham Hights …and they already offered outdoor dining, with heaters, even before COVID.
Three Squares first opened in 2013. Its popular outdoor patio, with reggae and other live music, was the scene of many chamber events and after work gatherings for folks working in the N-Squared District.
They closed for good last week.
“Please stay safe and remember Three Squares fondly,” reads the note owner Aaron Krug wrote hung on his restaurant’s door.

State unveils $140M for nursing homes

Last week Baker also unveiled a support package for nursing homes that ties staffing and occupancy reforms to additional, stable long-term funding and short-term aid in the event COVID infection rates begin to rise again this fall, CommonWealth reports.
The support package appears to be a recognition that the industry has been inadequately funded and overseen by the state for years, writes Bruce Mohl.

Banners are up!
Thanks to the Town of Needham and FastSigns for partnering with the chamber on our expanded banner campaign in downtown Needham.
Special thanks to Paul Good with the Needham Community Revitalization Trust Fund for making this happen and to Erik Lannigan and "Chief Ratchet" Derek Brigante of the Needham DPW for the installation
Eight new friends (and one reunion)
Finally, please join me in our new August (and one returning) members.
Chamber membership supports our programming and advocacy (including these newsletters!) and connects you with a diverse network of other business and civic leaders and potential clients.
To learn more about joining and our member benefits, go here or contact Lise Elcock.
Even more tomorrow!
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
Your chamber is here when you need us.


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