Chamber News

Needham / Newton
December 23, 2020 Likes Comments

The science behind Baker’s decision

It used to be that things quieted down just before the holidays.

Not this year. I have literally too much to tell you today, including updates from the state; important news specifically for Newton fitness clubs, theaters and other venues; details about PPP 2 and EDIL; and a collaboration from two local cultural organizations.
 
Then we got word last night that Donald Trump is threatening to not even sign the federal stimulus bill. The consequences are too ruinous to even ponder.
 
Plus, we'll have more news for our struggling businesses later today: Gov. Charlie said yesterday he will present what he is calling “a significant” economic relief fund for businesses impacted by COVID-19.
 
So read on friends.
 
25 is the new 40
 
Yesterday, Baker announced plans to further restrict capacity limits to 25 percent at most industries, including at restaurants, theaters, performance venues, personal services, casinos, offices, places of worship, retail, golf facilities, libraries, gyms and museums, among other sectors.
 
Workers and staff do not count toward the capacity totals for restaurants, personal services, places of worship and retail locations such as grocery stores.
 
The governor also imposed new gathering limits at private homes, event venues and public spaces: 25 outdoors and 10 indoors.
 
The new order will remain in effect for two weeks beginning Saturday Dec. 26.
 
Find a summary of the restrictions here; the emergency order here; and the full press release here.
 
There's science behind Baker’s decision

There continues to be a clamoring for Baker to close indoor dining (including from the Globe and a number of legislators).
 
But, to the relief of our local restaurants, that’s not what he did yesterday.
 
And it appears the governor has science on his side.
 
Baker appears to be adhering to a growing body of research, including from scientists at Stanford and Northwestern, that found capacity limits are both an effective coronavirus strategy and good economic policy.
 
“Data from early in the pandemic reveals there’s a ‘sweet spot’ where infections can be reduced while keeping business steady,” writes Yaryna Serkez in a column for the New York Times, who pins the “magic number” at 20 percent capacity.
 
“If indoor capacity in public spaces like restaurants, gyms, hotels and grocery stores was reduced to just 20 percent, we could prevent 87 percent of new infections. Meanwhile, these businesses would lose just 42 percent of their visits, on average.”
 
Serkez adds that Stanford’s study found that occupancy limits can be most beneficial in lowering infections among lower-income Americans.
 
Baker chose a 25 percent capacity limit. But otherwise his approach seems to mirror the findings, as well as earlier study by the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, which showed that reducing economic activity could prevent the coronavirus from spreading with a “lower economic cost than uniform citywide closure policies.”
 
So can we please stop talking about closing indoor dining already?
 
Good news for Newton’s gyms and theaters
 
Shortly after Baker announced his 25 percent capacity rules, Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said the city would adhere to the new state standards instead of the rules she introduced last week.
 
Which means that all the local gyms and fitness clubs, movie theaters, museums, indoor recreational and athletic facilities that were forced to close last Friday can reopen this coming Saturday at 25 percent capacity.
 
That’s both the right thing to do and was welcome news to the operators of several local venues that I spoke to last night.
 
Also lifted are requirements restricting bar seating (unless the operator received approval from the city by submitting a diagram showing adherence to certain guidelines) although the mayor told me last night that she still hopes restaurants will adhere to the recommendations.
 
Fuller also told me that the concrete barriers outside several Newton restaurants which allowed for outdoor dining are being removed because of the problems they created for snow removal. The city's decision frustrated several restaurateurs who say they'd hoped to offer outdoor seating on those warm days we inevitably get each winter.
 
Another devastating closing
 
The beloved L'Aroma Bakery & Café in West Newton will close permanently next month after serving for 12 years as a favorite meeting spot for so many, Jenna Fisher at Newton Patch reports.
 
"We've really connected really closely with the Newton residents, and it has been a wonderful journey," said Haleema Salie, who owns the business with her husband Yusuff. "It's kind of sad, but we are also looking forward to doing something else."
 
The Salies are originally from Sri Lanka. Their menu included a blend of native dishes as well as more traditional American cafe fare. Their daughter Rahma Salie and son in law Michael Theodoridis were expecting their first child when they died aboard American Airlines Flight 11 on 9/11. Their picture has been proudly on display in the restaurant.
 
In other local restaurant news, Newton’s only brewery, Hopsters, will be hitting the auction block on Jan. 5, according to Boston Restaurant Talk.
 
PPP round two expected in January
 
The Small Business Administration would not say yesterday when it might be accepting applications for the new the Paycheck Protection Program loans, because the new stimulus package had yet to be signed by the president.
 
But some experts are suggesting it should be early in January when new regulations and details are available.
 
“The good news is that the portal is already built out, so the infrastructure for the PPP already exists. The bad news is that this bill comes during what is always a very busy time in the financial services industry and at a time when many people both in and out of government are taking time off for the holidays," Stanley Jutkowitz tells the BBJ.
 
"Despite best intentions, if the bill becomes law today, it still will take a couple of weeks to modify the PPP application form and the software to incorporate the new rules, and for lenders to digest the changes.”
 
PPP in bullets
 
Here’s a summary of the some PPP changes compiled by Lori Yarvis, an attorney at Achstone Law (and a chamber member).
  • Previous PPP loan borrowers may apply for a PPP2 loan if they have 300 or fewer employees, have used or will use the full amount of their initial PPP loan and can show a 25% gross revenue decline in any quarter compared with the same quarter in 2019.
  • Restaurants and hotels can apply for a first time or second PPP loan for up to 3.5 times their average monthly payroll costs. Other borrowers are eligible for a loan of up to 2.5 times their average monthly payroll costs which is the same as with the initial PPP loans. The maximum amount of any loan under PPP2 is $2,000,000.
  • Businesses with 500 or fewer employees that are eligible for SBA 7(a) loans are now eligible for a PPP2 loan.
  • In addition to the expenses eligible for forgiveness under the initial PPP loans, costs eligible for loan forgiveness now include PPE and facility modification expenses needed to comply with COVID-19 federal health and safety guidelines, certain expenses to vendors that are essential to the borrower’s current operations at the time of purchase, software, cloud computing and accounting costs.
  • Business expenses paid with PPP loans that have been forgiven are now tax-deductible.
  • There is a now an even more simplified forgiveness application for PPP loans of $150,000 or less.
  • EIDL advances do not need to be deducted from the PPP forgiveness amount.
Here’s a different summary from Money and another explainer from the Independent Restaurant Coalition.
 
Aid for those shortchanged by EDIL Advance
 
Stimulus bill changes to the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance grant program could benefit businesses that were shortchanged by the program this year.

The program was supposed to provide $10,000 cash grants to small businesses that applied for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, whether or not they got the actual loan. But many businesses received less than that as the funding pool dwindled, reports Andy Medici for the BBJ.
 
The SBA approved about 5.8 million grants for a total of $20 billion, or an average of $3,500 per advance, which meant there wasn’t enough money for everyone. The new stimulus package adds $20 billion back to the program. Businesses that applied before but were shortchanged could get the balance owed.
 
The new legislation also repeals a previous rule that required small businesses to deduct SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans from PPP loan forgiveness. EIDL advances will also no longer be considered taxable income, something that had reduced the grant’s value.
 
The meal must have been dill-icious

After enjoying lunch at the In A Pickle restaurant on Moody Street on Sunday, a customer left behind a red envelope and hurried out the door.
 
Inside was a message that read "Merry Christmas. Please divide this between the waitstaff, hostess, cooks, dishwasher and bartender on today's shift, 12-20-20” and five one hundred dollar bills. Waltham Patch has the full story.
 
Finally, you've earned this
 
Finally this morning, take a few minutes to enjoy this collaboration between the New Philharmonia Orchestra and Boston Ballet School.
 
The two Newton-based organizations (and chamber members) usually perform an annual holiday concert together. This year….well you know the story…enjoy!

 

 

Be back for one final time in 2020 tomorrow.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.
Dine out. Take out. Shop locally. Mask up. And tip generously.

 

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