Boston restaurants say 9:30 p.m. halt on table service already stinging

Boston restaurants say 9:30 p.m. halt on table service already stinging

BOSTON — Restaurants across the city of Boston are reporting significant losses one week after the state began requiring all establishments to halt table service by 9:30 p.m.

Doug Bacon, with Red Paint Hospitality Group, owns eight restaurants and bars in the city of Boston.

Five of them are currently open, and he said all are being hit hard.

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At Corner Tavern on Marlborough Street in the Back Bay, Bacon reports losses of 40 percent due to the earlier closing time.

Prior to the state’s new mandate, Corner Tavern had been offering a full menu until 2 a.m. seven days a week.

“Many of my clients wouldn’t even come in before 10 p.m. and now with the 9:30 closing time, it’s just too early. I’ve been devastated,” said Bacon.

Bacon and several other restaurant owners are pleading for the state to consider allowing restaurants in the city to remain open until 11 p.m. or 12 a.m.

“I understand the suburban restaurants are shutting down by 10 o’clock. In the city, it’s not like that,” said Bacon. “It absolutely feels like the last straw or the death blow that’s going to put dozens and dozens of small businesses out of business forever.”

Due to the pandemic and on-going restrictions, Bacon said his staff of about 200 has been reduced to 75.

He told Boston 25 News that indoor dining stopping at 9:30 p.m. may lead to even more cuts right before the holidays.

“They keep telling us to watch the science and look at the data. We are looking at the data, and it proves that restaurants are not causing the problem,” he said. “It feels like we are being sacrificed, so the state can say we’re doing something.”

In this Nov. 6, 2020, file photo, patrons eat dinner outdoors in Boston's North End. More stringent coronavirus restrictions are now in effect in Massachusetts, including requiring restaurants to stop providing table service at 9:30 p.m. Liquor sales at restaurants and package stores will also shut down at 9:30 p.m. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
In this Nov. 6, 2020, file photo, patrons eat dinner outdoors in Boston's North End. More stringent coronavirus restrictions are now in effect in Massachusetts, including requiring restaurants to stop providing table service at 9:30 p.m. Liquor sales at restaurants and package stores will also shut down at 9:30 p.m. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File) (Elise Amendola)

Data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has shown a large majority of active COVID clusters are connected to households.

In the most recent published dashboard, accounting for October 4th through the 31st, 76 confirmed cases were related to restaurants and food courts out of a total of 11,424 confirmed cases.

“In reality, the growth of coronavirus cases is not coming from restaurants,” added Bacon. “In some cases, the new rules may be making things worse because people may be gathering and socializing inside homes.”

Dr. Joe Allen, Associate Professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health said there are things restaurants can do to reduce transmission as cases across the state climb.

“The restaurants have to go above and beyond the minimum ventilation standards,” said Allen. “They should be targeting double the ventilation rate than what’s required, and they should be further increasing the level of filtration.”

Allen also suggests that restaurants should only allow people to take off their masks while actively eating or drinking.

“If restaurants are going to be open and they want to stay open, they’re going to have to enforce the stringent protocols,” said Allen.

Bacon said he has upgraded ventilation and filtration at his establishments. However, he questions how any restaurant would enforce people wearing masks while seated and believes it would deter people from dining out.

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