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While Massachusetts Waits, the Rest of New England Reopens Dining Rooms

Gov. Charlie Baker is expected to provide a timeline soon for the resumption of indoor dining at restaurants

Empty casual restaurant interior. Signage in the foreground lists a step-by-step process for customers to dine inside during the COVID-19 pandemic, with notes about ordering, masks, and more.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, restaurant Popovers on the Square is among the many New England restaurants that have reopened for indoor dining in recent weeks.
Popovers on the Square/Facebook

Gov. Charlie Baker may make an announcement by the end of this week regarding a timeline for restaurants to be permitted to resume indoor table service — with many restrictions in place regarding distancing, cleaning protocols, and other measures aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Massachusetts restaurants closed in mid-March, except for takeout and delivery service, and began to reopen for table service, outdoors only, 10 days ago. The resumption of outdoor dining was part of the first step of phase two of the state’s four-phase reopening plan, with indoor dining planned for the second step of phase two, timeline to be determined. Phases are slated to run for three weeks or more, depending on certain coronavirus data benchmarks being met, which puts the possible start of phase three as early as June 29 — and indoor dining resuming prior to that.

While Massachusetts waits on Baker’s next update, the rest of New England has resumed indoor dining; Connecticut and parts of Maine were the last to resume, reopening yesterday, June 17.

Massachusetts has by far the most confirmed COVID-19 cases in the region, with over 101,000 confirmed as of June 17. Connecticut has fewer than half that (around 44,000), 16,000 in Rhode Island, 5,000 in New Hampshire, 2,700 in Maine, and 1,100 in Vermont.

Here’s a state-by-state breakdown on restaurant reopenings around the region.

New Hampshire

Gov. Chris Sununu permitted outdoor dining to resume on May 18, with indoor dining returning on June 15. Restaurants in several counties in close proximity to Massachusetts — Rockingham, Hillsborough, Merrimack, and Strafford — are limited to 50% capacity, but all of the state’s restaurants must keep tables at least six feet apart, essentially putting a capacity cap on everyone. Party sizes are also limited to six people. Restaurant’s bar areas are allowed to operate as long as distancing is maintained, and customers must be seated. Games such as pool and darts are not allowed yet, but live music (small groups and solo artists) is as long as it’s outdoors and doesn’t affect social distancing.

See New Hampshire’s restaurant reopening guidelines here.

Rhode Island

Like New Hampshire, Rhode Island resumed outdoor dining on May 18; eight feet of distance between tables, from edge to edge, was required, and parties were limited to five. Indoor dining resumed on June 1 at 50% capacity, with masks required, no lines allowed at restrooms or in waiting areas, and the same distancing rules as before, with regards to tables and people. (There’s an exception to the distancing rule if there are partitions meeting certain requirements.) The start of the indoor phase allowed for an increase in group size to 15, but the state is continuing to strongly encourage an eight-person limit. Bar seating is allowed now, too, but with no bartender — unless the bartender is behind a partition — and customers can’t stand around the bar.

See Rhode Island’s restaurant reopening guidelines here.


Outdoor dining resumed on May 20 with similar restrictions to other states, and indoor dining resumed on June 17 with both 50% capacity and six feet between tables required (or dividers meeting certain specifications). 550 Connecticut restaurant owners had signed a petition to Gov. Ned Lamont earlier in the month advocating for an earlier reopening, June 10. Live music is allowed outdoors, and the performers are exempt from mask rules as long as there are at least 12 feet of space between the performers — and between the performers and everyone else.

See Connecticut’s restaurant reopening guidelines here.


Maine allowed all dine-in service in a dozen rural counties to resume on May 18, followed by Penobscot county on June 1. The three remaining counties — Androscoggin, Cumberland, and York — also resumed table service on June 1, but only outside, not adding indoor dining until June 17. (Portland is located in Cumberland county.) Indoor dining restrictions are similar to other states, including six-foot spacing between tables and a maximum group size of eight. Call-ahead or online reservations are strongly recommended to limit customers from congregating while waiting for tables. Restaurants must maintain a list of customer information for potential contact tracing (one customer name and contact information per party, as well as the server of the table, saved for 21 days). Musical entertainment is allowed outside as long as distancing can be maintained; it must not encourage dancing or congregating.

See Maine’s restaurant reopening guidelines here.