Mass. restaurants returning from hibernation, performance venues eye reopening dates

BOSTON — Massachusetts is moving forward in its reopening plan on Monday, offering a cautious sign of optimism to many businesses across the state.

Restaurants will no longer have a percent capacity limit for the first time in months. Some restaurants that temporarily closed are now ready to rejoin the scene as a result of the eased restrictions.

Burro Bar is reopening its two locations in the South End and Brookline on Thursday.

“It’s the first step toward so-called normal,” said Marty Bloom, who co-owns Burro Bar. “They cut our capacity to 25% and then they threw on the 9:30 mandatory closing time. That was pretty much the death knell for most restaurants.”

Bloom said he is eager to bring his staff back to work and hopes customers are ready to return too.

“I know a bunch of people, no matter what I have open for capacity, they’re still not ready to walk into restaurants yet,” Bloom said. “It’s about the emotional psyche of our guests and folks feeling safe.”

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The state shifting to Phase 3, Step 2 on Monday also allows indoor performance venues to reopen at 50% capacity. Entertainers across the state are enthusiastic about the opportunity to perform in front of people again.

“It’s hope, and it’s a sense of normalcy that’s been lacking for so long,” said Scott Miller, the manager and lead guitar player for the Boston Naturals.

The Boston Naturals are known for sold-out shows at popular venues on the Cape, including the Beachcomber, the Sand Bar and the Pelham House. Miller said he’s very eager to get dates on the books for 2021.

“I think a lot of places are still hesitant. Some places are telling me we need to hold off,” Miller said. “I did send out about nine dates to one club we play at regularly, and the guy was like, ‘I’ll take them all, and we’ll see what happens.’”

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said, if COVID-19 rates continue their downward trend, the state will move into Phase 4 of its reopening plan on March 22.

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Phase 4 is separated into multiple steps, and some businesses will still be required to remain closed; that includes bars with seated food service, clubs and amusement parks. The following will receive the green light to open as part of Phase 4, Step 1:

  • Indoor and outdoor stadiums, arenas and ballparks at 12% capacity
  • Overnight camps, beginning this summer
  • Exhibition and convention halls
  • Dance floors, for weddings and events

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