Restaurant owners prepare to reopen bar seating Monday

EASTON, Mass. — Lots of restaurant owners spent the weekend making changes to their bars to make sure they’re safe enough to start seating customers Monday.

“Six months ago it was like a devastating blow and now every little bit that we get brings us back to some sort of sense of normalcy is a blessing for us, so we’re really excited,” said Neil Levine, owner of Maguire’s Bar & Grill in Easton.

Levine is getting ready to bring out his barstools at Maguire’s Bar and Grill after closing down that area for the last six months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting Monday, bar seating will open back up in restaurants across Massachusetts, and Levine says it’ll be great for business.

“If a seat represents $30 or $50 and I can turn that seat three or four times, I can pick up six other seats, that makes the difference between staying in business and not being here when we get through this,” Levine said.

Levine just installed plexiglass around the bar to separate customers from the bartenders. That barrier is now required under the new COVID-19 guidelines for restaurants. People sitting at bars will also have to order food, and barstools will have to be at least six feet apart unless there’s a barrier between parties.

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“We’ve had custom-made plexiglass dividers that will slide right into the bar, so when you sit down, I can slide a divider in right next to you and put another party here,” Levine said.

Levine added that he spent about $3,000 on new plexiglass to follow the new rules, but he said it’s worth it, not just for the boost to business.

“It’s not the three-deep at the bar on a Friday night, but it’s another step back to normalcy,” Levine said. “So for us it’s huge, you know the people are dying to come back and sit at a bar and talk to a bartender, and we couldn’t be more excited.”

Levine said he also plans to keep the tent up outside through the winter for outdoor seating.

Along with opening up bar seats, restaurants will also be able to sit bigger parties with up to 10 people per table starting Monday.

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