As of March 1, restaurants in Massachusetts will no longer be subject to percentage-based capacity limits, as the state enters Phase 3, Step 2 of its reopening plan. Gov. Charlie Baker announced the news in his February 25 press briefing. Restaurants will also be allowed to host musical performances.
The course change eases restrictions that were put in place on February 8 that capped restaurant capacities at 40 percent. (Capacities had been capped at 25 percent before that.) Other restrictions will remain in place, including current rules around masking — everyone must wear a mask at all times unless they are in the act of eating or drinking, or unless they are unable to due to a medical condition or disability — and social distancing — all tables must be placed at least six feet apart. All seated table service will still be limited to 90 minutes, and party size will still be capped at six diners.
Baker cited encouraging trends in public health data as well as continued vigilance by residents in the state around masking and social distancing as reasons for dialing back restrictions.
“I think most people remember that in November, in response to an increase in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, we implemented a stay-at-home advisory and several closures and restrictions on businesses,” said Baker. “And we understand that all of those closures and restrictions are enormously difficult for businesses and workers. Today, thanks to everyone’s commitment … to stop the spread, we can move forward with our opening plan.”
The decision marks the third significant easing of restrictions on restaurants and other businesses in the past month. In addition to increasing capacity caps from 25 percent to 40 percent, Baker lifted the state’s stay-at-home advisory and early business closure order that required restaurants to close by 9:30 p.m. (All this despite the fact that restaurant workers still aren’t eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine — and there are still very real risks associated with dining out, the bulk of which are shouldered by, you guessed it, restaurant workers.)
Indoor performance venues (concert halls, theaters, etc.) and recreational facilities (roller skating rinks, for example) will also be permitted to resume operation come March 1. Capacities on those businesses will be capped at 50 percent, with no more than 500 people permitted inside.
Baker also said that, as long as public health data continues to trend in the right direction, the state will enter Phase 4, Step 1 of its reopening plan on March 22. At that point, large venues, stadiums (think Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium), and arenas (TD Garden) — which are all currently closed — will be permitted to reopen at 12 percent of normal capacity.
The vast majority of workers who staff the state’s concert halls, theaters, roller skating rinks, stadiums, and arenas are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
For up-to-date COVID-19 guidelines for restaurants and bars in Massachusetts, go here.
• Massachusetts Restaurants Can Operate at 40 Percent Capacity [EBOS]
• Massachusetts Restaurants Can Stay Open Past 9:30 p.m. [EBOS]
• Restaurant Workers in Massachusetts Still Aren’t Eligible for the COVID-19 Vaccine [EBOS]
• The New Risks of Dining Out [E]
• What Are Massachusetts’s COVID-19 Rules for Restaurants and Bars Right Now? [EBOS]