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Massachusetts Tightens Grocery Store Restrictions Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Plus, some new restaurants (including a Popeyes in West Roxbury) are opening, and more news

A woman shops for produce at a grocery store while wearing a face mask
Shoppers are now required to wear masks while inside essential businesses in several Massachusetts towns and cities
F Armstrong Photography/Shutterstock

Welcome back to AM Intel, a Monday morning round-up of mini news bites to kick off the week.

Evolving Pandemic Regulations

On April 8, Gov. Charlie Baker supplemented previously announced grocery store regulations for Massachusetts with additional requirements, including that grocery stores must limit occupancy — including both staff and customers — to 40% of their maximum permitted occupancy. (This doesn’t apply to stores that already have an occupancy of 25 or fewer people.) Stores are also encouraged to designate one-way aisles where possible.

Within the state, some cities and towns are tightening up their own pandemic-related restrictions. Salem, for example, is now mandating that everyone wears a face covering within essential businesses (such as grocery stores) and communal areas of residential spaces. Ice cream trucks are also banned for now.

Brookline is also requiring customers to cover their faces while inside businesses, and staff must wear protective face, hand, and eye protection as well as install temporary Plexiglas-type barriers at customer service counter areas. Employees’ temperatures must be taken and recorded at the start of each shift. Restaurants offering takeout are encouraged to transition to non-contact methods with online or phone payment and curbside pickup.

In Lynn, there is now a citywide curfew between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. — only those who are providing or receiving essential services can be out of their homes between those hours.

Openings and Closings

While the local restaurant scene hangs in limbo trying to get by on takeout and delivery and waiting for relief, trying to hold on until regular service is allowed again, some “normal” restaurant news continues: Some restaurants are opening; some restaurants are closing.

Openings, of course, don’t include dine-in service at this time, as mandated by the state until at least May 4 — but that’s not stopping a couple takeout-friendly places from making their grand debut. Small local coffee chain Coffee Break Cafe opened a new location in South Quincy (102 Franklin St.) in late March, and fried chicken chain Popeyes is now open in West Roxbury (1630 VFW Parkway). The location has a drive-through window.

Prudential Center mainstay Top of the Hub — which announced an April closing back in January — had its final weeks cut short by the pandemic and is now permanently closed, ending a 55-year run 52 stories above Boston. Over on Stuart Street, Fleming’s Steakhouse has also closed permanently after operating for two decades. And in Somerville, the Assembly Row location of pizza chain Midici is closed as well.

In Other News...

  • Following the death by COVID-19 of Vitalina Williams, an employee at Market Basket in Salem, the state has expanded two drive-thru testing sites previously reserved for first responders to now allow grocery and supermarket workers as well.
  • The “Worcester renaissance” has been paused by the pandemic: MassLive talks to some of the vendors at the very recently opened Worcester Public Market who left stable careers to follow a dream of owning a business like an apiary or leather goods shop or pasta shop.
  • Have you been missing chef Paul O’Connell’s famous Cuban sandwiches from his defunct restaurant Chez Henri? They’ll be available for pickup at Mariposa Bakery in Cambridge this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Keep an eye out for them to be added to Mariposa’s pre-ordering system.
  • A reminder that you can find all Eater Boston COVID-19 coverage — including news and reports, as well as maps and guides about how to eat right now, how to support restaurant workers, and more — at this landing page.

Got a news tip for the Eater Boston team? Email

Top of the Hub

800 Boylston Street, , MA 02199 (617) 536-1775 Visit Website

Midici (Somerville)

463 Assembly Row, Somerville, MA 02145 Visit Website