Restaurant owners, managers ask Gov. Baker to reopen next Tuesday

Restaurant owners ask Baker, can we reopen next week?

Gov. Charlie Baker is planning to announce next Monday, May 18 whether he will lift the current stay-at-home advisory and which businesses will begin the reopening process.

Massachusetts’ coronavirus data continues to trend in a positive direction. The state reported 33 deaths on May 12, which is the lowest one-day total of deaths reported since April 6.

Massachusetts has also seen a big drop in new cases during the past two days -- just over 870 new cases Tuesday and 79,000 overall. The hospitalization rate increased slightly with 4% of all COVID-19 patients in the hospital and 818 in the intensive care unit.

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Many businesses have May 18 circled on their calendar, waiting to see when they can reopen and under what rules. Eager to open, a group of about 100 restaurant owners and managers sent a letter to Gov. Baker asking to reopen restaurants as early as next Tuesday, May 19.

“We can operate safer than a Walmart, Target, Home Depot, or a supermarket, which host many more customers per day, are not usually as clean, and six feet distance is close to impossible," the letter states.

South Shore restaurant owner: 'If there's an industry that can handle this, it's us'

If COVID-19 numbers continue to trend downward, they are asking restaurants to be at full capacity by June.

The group recognizes that towns and cities could slow the timetable if local virus hospitalizations rise in the future.

The hospitality sector is one of the hardest-hit industries in this pandemic. The letter says of the 300,000 hospitality jobs in Massachusetts, so far half of those workers have been laid off.

On top of cleaning and sanitizing, the group offered several safety guidelines they will follow so they can open safely.

Here is their proposal:

• Reconfigure patios, dining rooms, and bars to meet the standard of 6 feet social distancing

• Sanitize facilities

• Create marked lines for waiting outside, eliminating inside waiting

• Sanitize menus after each use or replace with disposable and online menus

• Meet National Restaurant Association reopening standards

• Test employee temperatures

• Create protocol to shut down and sanitize if an employee tests positive

• Block half the restroom facilities (if room holds more than one customer)

• Wear masks

• Require customers to wear masks when not seated

• Post pictures and videos on social media to show standards are being met

“We’re one of the cleanest, most regulated industries,” the group’s letter continues. "Unlike the owners and presidents of most of these multi-billion dollar, multi-national companies, we live here and work in our stores, so our safety measures impact us and our families.”

Last week, Gov. Baker relaxed rules for some non-essential businesses and also allowed golf courses to reopen.

These restaurant owners might have to wait until May 18 to find out if they can open, as that’s when Gov. Baker is expected to release more details of his four-stage plan.