Chamber News

June 01, 2020 Likes Comments

What our restaurants need from us

Now that Gov. Charlie Baker says outdoor dining could begin as soon as one week from today, it’s up to our municipal and state leaders to help our restaurants open safely and quickly.

 
Needham got a jump start on many cities and towns ten days ago when it established three outdoor spaces for restaurant-goers to enjoy takeout food (and even alcohol).
 
By all accounts Needham’s program has been a success.
 
“Just drove through downtown Needham,” someone posted on Facebook over the weekend. “Every picnic table filled with diners, lots of energy, socializing from a distance. What a fabulous idea…can’t remember a more vibrant downtown Saturday evening.”
 
On Friday, Mayor Fuller announced that Newton will start placing properly-distanced tables and chairs in parks and municipal parking lots near restaurants this week.
 
Public spaces are a great first step.
 
But restaurants also need support bypassing a maze of regulations so they can serve just outside their doors (with space to practice social distancing and other safety measures). That includes lawmakers on Beacon Hill who must vote to suspend the state’s arduous outdoor alcohol licensing process.
 
Fuller says the Newton’s licensing commission will grant a global waiver this week to allow restaurants to offer sidewalk and/or private lot seating without a hearing.
Needham and Watertow n are also working to remove their red tape.
 
There’s more: Many restaurants have narrow sidewalks or other circumstances that aren’t conducive to an outdoor set up. We need to follow the lead of other communities across the country that are closing some streets or setting up tables in parking spaces.
 
The rest of us have a big role too. Non-restaurants should allow restaurateurs to place tables in front of their storefronts. Landlords need to be flexible too. Neighbors will need to be tolerant of outdoor noise this summer.
 
We’ll also need a campaign to emphasize that restaurants are back and safe.
 
And we should all expect to pay more for a meal out, as costs and capacity make what’s always been a thin margin business, even thinner.
 
This isn’t just a matter of saving restaurants and jobs, although that would be enough. Our restaurants create a sense of place, identity and community. They’re essential to our economic and cultural vitality. A safe and successful reopening should be important to all of us.
 

Final days to apply for Newton’s COVID-19 Fund

Newton-based workers and residents who need emergency relief have until Friday to seek help from the Newton COVID-19 Care Fund. All applications received by June 5 will be considered. Apply here.
A partnership between Newton community members, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, and Family ACCESS, the Newton COVID-19 Care Fund has raised over $700,000 from more than 1,000 individuals, businesses, nonprofits and foundations.

 

The Fund will remain active through June 30 to continue to accept donations to meet the needs of the final round of eligible applicants.

 

“Those involved with the fund remain committed to monitoring closely the current crisis and are prepared to spring back into action if needed," Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller wrote in her email newsletter last week.

Our transportation challenges
 
Last week, I wrote about a poll of Massachusetts residents conducted by The MassINC Polling Group, that asked residents how they plan to get around as the state starts to reopen, including their comfort levels with using public transportation and continuing to work from home.
 
 
Do you have your COVID-19 Control plan yet?
 
All businesses in the Commonwealth must develop a written control plan outlining how its workplace will comply with the mandatory safety standards for operation in the COVID-19 reopening period. Control plans do not need to be submitted for approval but must be kept on premises and made available in the case of an inspection or outbreak. You may use the COVID-19 Control Plan template or create your own written plan.
 
You must also complete, sign, and post the Compliance Attestation Poster and post the Employer Guidance and Worker Guidance posters. These should be displayed in an area within the business premises that is visible to employees, customers, and visitors.
 
PPP waiting game continues
 
Here’s eight words no one wants to depend on in 2020: “Waiting for the House and Senate to agree.” But that’s the status of hoped-for reforms of the federal Paycheck Protection Program. Forbes summarizes the bill the House passed last week, what the Senate might do this week and what the Treasury’s harsh forgiveness regulations mean for business and banks if a new bill isn’t approved.
 
Finally,
 
The doctors at Specific Chiropractic Centers, a chamber member located in Watertown Square, have been going around to different restaurants and donating money so that people can eat for free.
 
One of the doctors, Rich Baez, told Watertown News they felt it is import to help people pull through the outbreak and shutdown together.
 
That's all for now. Stay safe.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.

 

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