Restaurant owners remain challenged by capacity restriction despite lifted curfew

BOSTON — Massachusetts is lifting the statewide 9:30 p.m. curfew on businesses on Monday, but for some, the biggest challenge will remain.

Boston 25 News spoke with several restaurant owners, including Chris Coombs, who said the 25 percent capacity limit is the biggest factor crushing profit margins.

Coombs, chef and co-owner of Boston Chops, Deuxave and dbar, pointed out that the capacity limit doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing for every restaurant.

He feels it would make more sense to emphasize a stronger focus on social distancing inside restaurants.

“Many buildings, in the city of Boston, their occupancy was determined when they were open,” explained Coombs. “A restaurant that is two or three years old doesn’t have the same occupancy based on square footage as perhaps a restaurant that opened 15 years ago.”

Governor Baker said the statewide capacity limit will remain in place through at least February 8th despite public health trends changing for the better.

“Unless you are really focused on takeout food, there is no path to breaking even. At 25 percent, it does not work in any model. It is not profitable. It is not sustainable,” said Coombs.

Coombs does believe the 9:30 p.m. curfew being lifted on businesses will offer a boost to employees.

“Now this is going to allow employees to work an eight or nine hour shift. We’re going to see an increase in the labor hours,” he said.

Boston 25 News checked with other restaurant owners in the city of Boston who have opted to temporarily close for the time being.

All said the curfew being lifted isn’t enough of an incentive to reopen.

Coombs is hopeful that it’s just the first step in restrictions being loosened as COVID-19 numbers trend downward.

“I think the general public is exhausted with these restrictions,” added Coombs. “I’m a big proponent of, if you treat us like adults, we’ll behave like adults. If you treat us like children, we’re going to behave like children.”

On Monday, the state will also be lifting the stay at home order that asks people not to go out between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

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