Statewide curfew, early business closure ending Monday

BOSTON — The stay-at-home advisory ends Monday and the state’s curfew will be lifted starting at 5 a.m. The governor is easing some of these COVID-19 restrictions as the transmission rate of the virus improves. Another big change is businesses like restaurants, salons and gyms can now stay open late.

“Every little bit helps, but nothing has been the cure,” said Tony Maws, chef and owner of Craigie on Main in Cambridge.

He said it’s good news to hear another COVID-19 restriction will be lifted Monday, allowing restaurants to stay open past 9:30 p.m., but he said it won’t make a huge difference for his business.

“There are some restaurants that would benefit from it, but as an industry on a whole, we still have a long road ahead of us,” Maws said.

Governor Charlie Baker announced the changes at a press conference Thursday.

“Our public health data is trending in better directions for some categories, like hospitalizations and the percent of positive COVID cases, for the first time in a long time,” Baker said. “Hospitalizations are down by 10 percent since they peaked in early January.”

Businesses part of Phase 3 Step 2 must remain closed.

Since the pandemic hit in March, Maws transformed his restaurant to take-out only. But for other owners, he said staying open late could give a little boost to business depending on their neighborhood.

“For a lot of people, it’s too late. This industry is going to be permanently impacted, which means really our communities are going to be permanently impacted by the loss of independent restaurants and small businesses on their main streets,” Maws said.

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Maws said they’re thankful for the state grants from the governor, but they’re hoping the Restaurants Act will pass on the federal level to really make a difference for this struggling industry.

“The more restaurants that don’t make it, the harder it’s going to be for economic recovery,” Maws said.

The biggest challenge is the 25% capacity limit that will remain in effect, but Maws said every little step forward is a step in the right direction.

“No one’s going to turn away the ability to do more business, but it’s not something that’s hugely impactful right now,” Maws said.

The 25% capacity limits will remain in effect for at least the next two weeks, and then the governor can decide whether to extend it.

Gathering limits will also remain the same until at least Feb. 8. Indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people while outdoor gatherings can have 25 people.