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Boston Allows Indoor Dining to Continue With ‘Strict Adherence’ to Guidelines

As part of a regional effort with nearby cities and towns, the city of Boston is stepping back its reopening process as of December 16, but restaurants won’t have to contend with too many new restrictions

Stock photograph of a chef in a restaurant kitchen TheBigPineapple/Getty Images

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced on December 14 that the city is stepping back to a modified version of phase two, step two, of the state’s reopening process in an effort to be proactive as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in every Boston neighborhood.

Taking effect on December 16, the new set of guidelines are aimed at reducing in-person activities throughout the city and prioritizing activities the city deems essential, such as getting more students back into schools, while clamping back down on museums, gyms, and other indoor spaces.

“This is not about targeting specific sectors,” Walsh said. “This is an effort to reduce overall activity outside the home” while minimizing the impact on working people and small businesses.

Indoor dining can continue, Walsh announced, with “strict adherence” to current guidelines, most of which haven’t changed in recent weeks — six-foot spacing, a maximum of six people per table, 90-minute time limits, and a 9:30 closing time. (Customers cannot get around the 90-minute limit by making consecutive reservations or leaving and returning.)

The city is now prohibiting bar seating unless a restaurant gets specific approval from the Licensing Board; masks are required unless eating or drinking (this is a new statewide requirement that was announced last week); and live music, pool tables, bowling, and other “uses ancillary to dining” are not allowed.

Walsh said that the city would be stepping up enforcement of its reopening guidelines, and there will be an emergency board meeting held every Monday to address complaints from the previous week. He’s also encouraging customers to help small businesses stay open by doing their part to follow guidelines, and he’s hoping that although indoor dining is still permitted, restaurants — and customers — will focus more on takeout and delivery services.

Boston isn’t working in isolation; Walsh said that a number of nearby towns and cities — including Newton, Somerville, Arlington, Lynn, and others — will also be rolling back their reopening guidelines in the coming days, with exact guidelines varying a bit from community to community.

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