‘We’re really close now’: Clubs, bars eye potential for reopening in summer 2021

BOSTON — As Massachusetts enters its final phase of the reopening plan, businesses at the end of the list are eagerly waiting for their cue to turn the lights back on.

There is still no clear timeline for when clubs and bars that don’t serve prepared food can reopen in Massachusetts. That isn’t stopping the nightlife industry from planning for every potential scenario on the horizon.

Some are hopeful they’ll be cleared to reopen in the “near future” with restrictions.

“We’re really close now. If everyone’s going to be able to get the vaccine by April, that gives us hope that we could be operating in some capacity by the end of May,” said Jamison LaGuardia, vice president of Sales, Operations and Events for Royale Entertainment Group. “Our worst-case scenario is Labor Day.”

>>>MORE: What you need to know: Phase 4 of reopening Massachusetts starts Monday

Royale Entertainment Group oversees 10 different clubs across the Boston area, including Royale, Candibar and Legacy. LaGuardia said there’s lots of brainstorming happening behind the scenes about what reopening will look like.

“We will do temperature checks at the door. We will make sure that people have their vaccine cards,” LaGuardia explained. “This is going to be the new world we’re going to have to operate in.”

One idea is to potentially start with VIP socially distanced table service. There’s also talk of patrons using a mobile app to order drinks, which a waitress would then deliver.

“You would not be walking up to the bar. You would literally order everything on your phone,” LaGuardia said. “It’s going to be a learning process.”

For many small bars, the planning and preparation continue to be financially draining.

The owner of Paddy’s Lunch wasn’t willing to sit back any longer to wait for clearance to reopen. Despite its name, the Cambridge watering hole didn’t serve prepared food. Ruth Ryan Allen knew that had to change in order for her to get the lights back on.

“So COVID only comes in when there’s no food?” Allen questioned. “It makes no sense.”

Allen just finally reopened last week after taking out a $60K loan to retrofit the bar’s kitchen area. She told Boston 25 News she was fortunate enough to have maintained the bar’s restaurant license for years without using it.

“We just went into huge debt. Will we make it out on the other end? I don’t know,” Allen said. “We’ve been in business 86 years, and it would be a horrible thing for us to close after all this time.”

>>>MORE: Boston enters Phase 4 with modifications, allows more businesses to reopen

Allen also invested more than $10,000 in upgrades and other safety measures. She said she’s still not sure how she’s going to make up for all the money she lost, spent and borrowed.

“We say a lot of prayers,” Allen said. “We need help. We don’t need loans because we can’t pay them back. We need grants to subsidize us.”

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