A group of Massachusetts restaurant owners and managers has joined together to pen a letter to state elected officials urging them to allow restaurants to open on Tuesday, May 18.
In the May 12 letter to Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and “all Massachusetts Representatives and Senators,” the MA Restaurant and Jobs Group wrote, “We want to reopen restaurants, safely and legally, on May 19, 2020, provided that virus hospitalizations aren’t rising. Thirty days after that, we want to open at full capacity. Towns and cities would be allowed to slow this timetable if local virus hospitalizations are rising now or in the future. However, these localities would announce an alternative time frame immediately so that we and our hard-working employees can plan accordingly.”
According to the letter, around half of the estimated 300,000 employees in the hospitality industry statewide had been laid off to date, with 60,000 of those jobs not likely to return.
The MA Restaurant and Jobs Group maintains that the state’s restaurants can abide by social-distancing and operate more safely “than a Walmart, Target, Home Depot, or a supermarket.” To safely and legally reopen its restaurants, the group has committed to reconfiguring patios, dining rooms and bars to maintain the standard six feet for social distancing; sanitizing the facilities; creating marked lines for patrons to queue up outside, rather than lining up inside restaurants; sanitizing menus after each use or replacing them with disposable and online menus; meeting reopening standards set by the National Restaurant Association; testing the temperature of employees; creating protocol to shut down and sanitize restaurants if an employee test positive for COVID-19; blocking half of the restroom facilities, if they can accommodate more than one patron at a time; requiring patrons to wear masks when not seated; and posting pictures and video on social media to demonstrate that they’re meeting these standards.
“Cleaning and sanitation for the safety of customers and employees has been the most crucial component of our industry for decades; it’s what we do first and foremost,” the letter reads.
Speaking on behalf of the MA Restaurant and Jobs Group, John Grasso, owner of the Halfway Café, which has three locations in the Boston area, as well as The Brook Kitchen & Tap in Holbrook, said, “We’re closely regulated by building inspectors, plumbing inspectors and health inspectors – health inspectors can pop in on us at any time – so we have to monitor ourselves. Our job is safety, and this is what we’re used to doing.”
Grasso said the letter provided the group an opportunity to be heard at the state level on the steps that its restaurants would take to ensure the safety of patrons and employees when they’re allowed to reopen.
“The longer we’re closed, the more difficult it will be to come back, and we already know it’s going to be a tremendous challenge coming back,” Grasso said. “We want to get our voice in the room. We know what we have to do and just want the opportunity to do it.”