A week after extending school closures through the end of the school year and non-emergency childcare program closures through June 29, 2020, Gov. Charlie Baker has unsurprisingly announced an extension of the stay-at-home advisory originally put in place in March. It includes the continued closure of nonessential businesses; restaurants can keep offering takeout and delivery, while dine-in service is still prohibited, as are gatherings of 10 or more people. The new end date is May 18, at least for now, and Baker is working with a reopening advisory board to figure out a data-driven approach to phased reopenings in the coming weeks.
Some Massachusetts cities and towns have placed stricter restrictions on their restaurants, such as prohibiting customers from going inside restaurants at all (curbside pickup and delivery are still allowed) and requiring employees and/or customers to cover their faces.
Restaurants have been closed for dine-in service since March 17, and while some have decided to close entirely until restrictions are lifted, others are beefing up their existing takeout and delivery routines or starting to offer these services for the first time. Some restaurants are experimenting with offering groceries; some restaurants are playing around with interacting with customers via Zoom or FaceTime.
Restaurants are now allowed to include beer and wine sales, with some restrictions, with takeout and delivery orders; Massachusetts distillers are asking legislators to expand this to include cocktails as well as allow direct-to-consumer liquor sales from distillers.
Still, while restaurants are experimenting with ways to continue business and various relief efforts are ongoing, it’s a struggle across the food industry as the pandemic drags on. Food trucks — which would be gearing up for their major season right around now — have lost the business of all the students and office workers who are now home, as well as much of their catering business since no one’s holding large events. Farmers markets are figuring out how to operate safely, but there are hurdles to overcome. Supermarket workers are on the front line every day, often without the necessary protective equipment, and three have died of complications related to the virus in Massachusetts.
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