Chamber News

February 18, 2021 Likes Comments

Time to treat these businesses like others

Hopefully you didn’t just pull an all-nighter waiting for today's 65-plus vaccine registration to open.

Registration actually begins this morning at 8 a.m., including for the new mass vax site at the Natick Mall.
Gov. Charlie Baker warned yesterday that it may take up to a month for the 65-plus cohort – representing almost 1 million individuals in a state with a population just under 7 million – to land an appointment, depending on federal supply.
Also newly eligible are individuals 16-plus with two or more of the following medical conditions: moderate to severe asthma, cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, Down Syndrome, heart conditions, immunocompromised state from an organ transplant, obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease, smoking and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Baker also announced a new initiative yesterday to make it easier for people to get vaccinated in 20 communities that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
Details for booking can be found via the COVID-19 Vaccine Finder.

Time to treat this business like others

Since May of 2019, Newton’s only cannabis retail shop has been operating on Washington Street in Newtonville, without “any issues,” according to acting Police Chief Howard Mintz.
So it’s time -- past time, actually -- to lift Newton's requirement that this professionally operated, law abiding, local retailer must book all customer visits in advance.
No other employer, of any type, is required as an operating condition to be appointment-only. Recreational stores statewide have been operating for years now without these rules and without problems.
Later this year Garden Remedies will petition the Newton City Council to lift its appointment-only restriction, reports John Hilliard at the Globe.

“As far as we know, Newton is really the only location that has a stringent kind of appointment rule,” Garden Remedies chief operating officer Jeff Herold tells Hilliard. “And we definitely feel like it hurts our overall business.”
Two other recreational marijuana shops --- Cypress Tree at the corner of Route 9 and Eliot St. in Upper Falls and Ascend in West Newton -- have reached agreements and secured special permits with Newton and are waiting for approval from the state Cannabis Control Commission before opening.
Both also face these unnecessary by-appointment restrictions.
Meanwhile, the council will consider rules allowing marijuana courier and delivery businesses at a March 8 public hearing.
Group looks to get insurers to honor business interruption policies
Business interruption insurance is supposed to do just what’s its name suggests: If a business is unexpectedly forced to close (say, for example, due to a pandemic) the policy is supposed to help protect against financial losses.
Not happening, not Amanda Converse and Sam Treadway, in a column for the Globe Sunday magazine.
“Virtually every restaurant in Massachusetts and elsewhere has had its business operations interrupted in some way since last March,” they write.
“But insurers have been aggressively denying claims, saying their insuring agreements were meant to cover interruptions from disasters like fires and floods, not losses from pandemic shutdowns.”
And when policyholders go to court to fight as nearly 1,500 have, according to a litigation-tracking project at University of Pennsylvania law school — most cases are being dismissed.
An advocacy group called THIRST (The Hospitality Industry Re-Imagined Security Trust), consisting of small-business owners and employees in Massachusetts and across the country, is hoping to change that. Details here.

Need to knows
  • There will be a special election in Newton to fill two vacant seats on the City Council on March 16. Both are at-large seats, which means every voter in Newton gets a say. Vote By Mail has been authorized for this election, however, even if you voted by mail in the presidential election, you must apply for a mail-in ballot. Download a Mail-In Ballot Application here. Videos of candidate forums by the affordable housing group U-CHAN's is here.
  • Need health insurance? The MA Health Connector has extended its open enrollment period through March 23rd.
  • We’re hiring! Your chamber is looking for an outgoing, people-loving person to help us continue to grow and serve the business and nonprofits in Newton, Needham, Wellesley and Watertown. As Member Outreach Coordinator, you’ll assist with membership recruitment, engagement and retention as we look to support our region’s economic recovery. Pass it on.
Bringing boutique restaurants to Wellesley just got easier

Here’s an update on a Town Meeting item in Wellesley that would allow restaurants with less than 50 seats to hold a liquor license.

Last week, I correctly noted that Article 21 needed approval from Town Meeting, the Legislature and Gov. Baker. But it’s since been determined that it does not also need to get final approval from Wellesley voters -- something that would have added months to the process.
The change will likely entice small boutique restaurants to open in town and, in turn, help fill an alarming number of empty storefronts.
Outstanding nonprofit seeks temporary storage space

Dream Big!, a chamber member nonprofit that provides girls and young women from low-income situations with equipment, sports attire, program fees, and leadership training is looking to rent/sublease a large open space, retail store, or office space (Approx. 2000+ sq feet) for anywhere from one to six-plus months in the Newton area beginning March 1.
The space would assist them in distributing over $200,000 worth of sports attire, equipment and athletic footwear to girls and young women from low-income situations in Massachusetts, whose families have been impacted by the pandemic. Contact Linda Driscoll.

SBA programs extend beyond PPP and EIDL

While the SBA approved more than 5.1 million Paycheck Protection Program loans for more than $521 billion last year, only 1.4 million loan recipients had received some level of forgiveness as of early February, according to SBA data.

That’s lead some small-business owners to shy away from applying for a second draw PPP loan until their first loan is fully forgiven, according to the results of a recently conducted survey.

But small businesses can also save thousands of dollars in fees and get months' worth of loan payments paid under a supercharged set of Small Business Administration loans that are separate from the SBA’s PPP and its Economic Injury Disaster Loan programs, reports Andy Medici for the Business Journals.

Now businesses that are interested in buying a competitor, purchasing a new franchise, buying a building, purchasing equipment or starting a business from scratch have options that make the pre-pandemic, conventional SBA loans far more attractive — and offer the potential to save tens of thousands of dollars. Details here.

Meanwhile the BBJ’s Jessica Bartlett is reports on the ongoing inequities in awarding PPP loans to Black owned businesses.
Not only did Black-owned businesses in Massachusetts receive fewer loans overall, but they received smaller loans than their peers.
Three good things
  • At a time when the hotel business in Greater Boston has taken a battering the new Hampton Inn & Suites opened in Watertown this week. It’s located next to the Arsenal Yards' retail, restaurants and life sciences jobs.
  • Baramor in Newton Centre has just launched a program called "Winter Warmer Days + Nights." For $15, participants can secure their own outdoor table (blankets provided) on Baramor’s heated patio with a Thermos of warm drinks, plus snacks. The program began last weekend and sold-out, seating over 70 diners. The program runs through Feb. 27. Reservations required.
  • Hot Doggy, featuring hot dogs with South American influences is coming to Sherwood Plaza on Route 9 in Natick. The Brazilian-style hot dogs which comes with a variety of toppings, including mashed potatoes, reports the MetroWest Daily News .
Newton and Wellesley restaurants wanted for food insecurity program

More than 25 Newton and Wellesley restaurants submitted applications yesterday for our new program designed to provide financial support for struggling restaurants and healthy meals to those facing food insecurity.
We’re can still accommodate more.

The initiative will deliver more than 10,000 restaurant meals to food pantries, senior programs and other persons in need.

A few people emailed yesterday asking why Needham isn't part of the program. That’s because, this effort, funded by a $175,000 earmark in the state budget was proposed by state Sen. Cynthia Creem who targeted the program to help restaurants and residents in her district, which includes Newton, Wellesley and Brookline.

Anyone wanting to support a similar effort in Needham should consider donating to the Needham Community Council whose Help a Restaurant Feed a Neighbor program has the same mission.

Our chamber is working directly with restaurants and volunteers in Newton, in partnership with the Rotary Club of Newton, and in Wellesley, with support from the town’s Health Department’s social workers.
That’s it for today. Be back tomorrow.

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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