With federal social distancing guidelines extended through the end of April, it seems inevitable that Massachusetts’ current ban on dine-in restaurant service will also be extended past its current end date of April 6. Gov. Charlie Baker hasn’t made an announcement to that end yet, and the stay-at-home advisory he issued a week ago only goes until April 7 (along with a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people, social distancing guidelines for grocery stores, and other measures).
Still, local cities, towns, and individual restaurants are taking it upon themselves to put more restrictive measures in place to keep people apart.
Effective March 24, Arlington prohibited customers from entering restaurants, for example, putting an end to all service except for curbside pickup and delivery; regular takeout is not allowed. Arlington’s health department is also encouraging (but not requiring) restaurants to take credit card payments online or via phone to limit interactions in person.
Meanwhile in Revere, all the restaurants along Revere Beach Boulevard have voluntarily agreed to cease takeout operations for now (delivery is still allowed.) The stretch of businesses along the beach — which, along with restaurants such as Kelly’s Roast Beef also includes a senior-living facility currently under quarantine — was seeing large crowds form on recent mild days, raising concerns. In addition to people picking up food, relatives of people in the senior-living facility were gathering near the facility’s windows to “visit” their family members.
Many Boston-area restaurants that continue to offer takeout are incorporating curbside pickup options, allowing customers to call when they arrive and stay in the car as an employee places the order in the trunk.
Others — including restaurants that initially continued takeout and delivery operations when the dine-in ban was announced — are now temporarily shutting down entirely, citing concerns for staff and customer health. Casual pizza staples like Santarpio’s and Newtowne Grille have already made the call, along with prominent restaurant groups like Tiffani Faison’s Big Heart Hospitality. Earlier in the month, Faison herself had even been performing deliveries herself before shutting down operations on March 21.
The question of takeout service is coming up across the country; what’s the point of social distancing measures if large groups of people are clustering together to pick up their takeout orders at busy restaurants? At a popular Italian restaurant in New York City, Carbone, police even had to step in to disperse large crowds of delivery drivers and takeout customers waiting for their orders. One of Los Angeles’ busiest restaurants, Howlin’ Ray’s, is known for its line, which can take hours to navigate on a normal day: “Simply put: at Howlin’ Ray’s, the line is the restaurant,” writes Eater LA. Ultimately, the Howlin’ Ray’s team ended up shutting down for now, taking time to ponder the possibility of delivery, catering, pre-orders, and other ways of safely continuing business.
While time will tell whether Gov. Baker will impose tighter restrictions on Massachusetts restaurants, it’s likely that more cities, towns, and restaurants will make the decision for themselves in the coming days.
• Town of Arlington Suspends Takeout Service Inside Restaurants; Curbside/Delivery Remain Options [BRT]
• Restaurants Near Revere Beach End Takeout Service in City Effort to Disperse Crowds [WCVB]
• No Dining in Restaurants, but What About Takeout Lines? [BG]
• COVID-19 Coverage on Eater [EBOS]