Restaurant owners react to governor’s plan to ease restrictions

BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker announced a lifting of restrictions for businesses Thursday and restaurants will no longer face capacity limits but must abide by 6-foot spacing.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Matt O’Neil, owner of Ledger Restaurant and Bar in Salem. O’Neil said it’s a step in the right direction and getting back to how things were a year ago at restaurants across the state.

Baker said cooperation from everyone got us here. “Today thanks to the commitment to masks and social distancing and hand washing we can move forward with a re-opening plan,” Baker said.

That plan is a return to Phase 3, Step 2. If it seems familiar, we got there before COVID cases spiked in the fall. A reduction in capacity after that made winter tough for the Ledger, which can only seat 70 people.

“We just kind of reinvented ourselves. It’s been kind of a rollercoaster ride but we’re still here,” said O’Neil.

On Monday, they’ll be able to seat 85 people but smaller restaurants like “To Beirut” in Norwood have a mixed reaction to this good news.

“Absolutely, we’re excited about that, but still everyone’s going to be thinking, ‘Is that the right call?’” said Bassel Imad, who works at To Beirut.

For patrons, more customers is not an issue but there are some concerns.

“I won’t wait in a line and when I see a crowded area I’ll detour away from it,” said Bee O’Neill who was dining with a friend at Ledger.

Still Ledger’s owner believes as COVID rates improve so will business.

“The weather will turn over the next six weeks and people will get out. Vaccine and numbers coming down,” said O’Neil.

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